A newly formed dragon boat team of the Hong Kong Association of New York, composed of several Hongkongers in the United States, participated in the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York for the first time this year. After seven weeks of hard work, they won the runner-up medal in the HK Family Invitational even though it was their first time participating in the competition.
“I arrived in New York four months ago and it is the first time I participated in a local event. The atmosphere here is very different from Hong Kong!” Wong Ka Po, a running coach in Hong Kong, told the Epoch Times, “the venue in New York is relatively more spacious, the environment is relatively more comfortable, and the view is very wide. I have with many new friends here!”
He loves sports and joined the newly formed dragon boat team of the Hong Kong Association of New York just two months after arriving in New York.
Michelle Mui, Executive Director of the Hong Kong Association in New York, helped the Association in forming its first dragon boat team, and enrolled in the Regular Mixed and the HK Family Invitational, to enhance the friendship among Hongkongers. “I hope it can become a regular event. We are all newbies this year. I hope we can do better next year.”
Difference in Training
Since June this year, Wong Ka Po and a group of teammates drove to Flushing Meadow, Corona Park every weekend to practice dragon boating on Meadow Lake, to train for participating in the 30th Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York, held on July 31 and Aug. 1.
When Ka Po was in Hong Kong, he also participated in a dragon boat team and he competed at Kwun Tong Promenade in September 2019. He remembered that he underwent training in Hong Kong not only on weekends but also on weekdays.
Transportation in Hong Kong is more convenient. People can go to the training site easily after leaving work. However, the venue in New York was relatively remote and there was no direct public transportation to get there. In general, team members could only receive intensive training on weekends, therefore the gathering time seemed more precious.
The training format of “coach-sharing” was also experienced by Ka Po in New York. “There are many dragon boat races in Hong Kong, and there are lots of coaches for dragon boat training there. Generally speaking, every team has a coach in Hong Kong, but in New York, experienced coaches are not enough. After all, dragon boat racing is not a mainstream sport here, so we would share a coach with several dragon boat teams, and even practice with different teams.”
Wong described that teammates from different teams practice mainly basic concepts and dragon boating skills together. During the training, he made many friends, not only with Hongkongers but also with Malaysians, Westerners, and so on. Once the basic skills were mastered, they would then split into teams for training. It was time to build up a sense of camaraderie among teammates.
In terms of competition venues, Ka Po commented that the athlete’s area at the venue in Flushing, New York is much larger than that in Kwun Tong, Hong Kong. “After all, Hong Kong is a small city, and there are fewer tents in the athletes’ area. But New York is a relatively large city. The athletes’ area given to a team in Hong Kong is only a quarter of the area here.”
In terms of the competition atmosphere, because the venue was large and the fans were scattered in different places, he felt a bit regretful that the venue was not as concentrated and the atmosphere was not as enthusiastic as in Hong Kong.
Contract Abdomen Muscles is Important
Ka Po has been a running coach in Hong Kong for many years and is keen on triathlons. At the same time, he trains in swimming, cycling, and running skills as well. With his experience, participating in dragon boat sports is relatively easy for him. “Many people think that dragon boat rowing is a matter of hand and arm muscles, but it is not.
If someone uses their hand muscles, they will get tired easily after a short period of time. But if the abdominal muscles are used, their hands and feet can then be coordinated, and the sport will not be so harsh.” In the past, while running, cycling, and swimming training, he also paid great attention to exercising of abdomen muscles, which helped to improve his overall skills.
Michelle has never rowed a dragon boat before, and this was her first time participating in the event. She also participated in some running competitions and usually practiced yoga and cycling activities. She realized that participating in a dragon boat team was different from ordinary sports. “Dragon boat is after all a group sport.
The most important thing is that everyone is in the same rhythm. If someone is in a hurry, he will mess up. In the past, I could run, practice yoga, and ride a bicycle by myself, but dragon boat racing is teamwork. It takes everyone’s action in the same rhythm to move forward the boat, this is something I have never experienced in other sports.”
She believed that through such training, the chemistry among the team members built up, and she hoped that it would not only be helpful in the competition, but also in the lives of the Hongkongers so that Hongkongers in oversea countries can help each other.
Fall in Love with Dragon Boating
Michelle believed that this event was a good start. After all, many large-scale events have been suspended due to the pandemic. In the past two years, many of the Association’s activities have been changed to online events. This dragon boat competition was the first large face-to-face event the Association has participated in in two years. After the “lockdown” days, she cherished the time when people could meet each other face-to-face.
When she lived in Hong Kong, Michelle did not go to the venue to watch the dragon boat competition in person. This year was the 30th anniversary of the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York, and even though she has lived in New York for many years and she had not participated in it.
In the past, she always felt that this sport was too difficult for her. But this was the first time she participated in a dragon boat, and she has already fallen in love with this sport. “Actually, I can’t even swim, but I have also managed to row the dragon boat, and I am very happy for having this Association.
We have this opportunity to bring Hongkongers together and give everyone a new understanding of the culture of Hong Kong. We will continue to work hard and meet each other again next year!”