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Dragon boat racing (Photo: Dan)
Dragon boat racing (Photo: Dan)

TAIPEI, Taiwan: – The 2009 Taipei International Dragon Boat Festival ended yesterday with city mayor Hau Lung-bin saying he hopes the festival continues to be among the biggest cultural events here.

Over 200 teams competed in the three-day event at Diajia Riverside Park.

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Speaking at the awards ceremony, Hau said that one dragon boat festival per year was not enough. HE did not promise additional dragon boat competitions but said there would be more riverside activities.

He thanked the sponsors and organisers and encouraged the teams to continue to participate.

“I know that there are many teams that participate every year. And, although your performance gets better every year, it is not until this year that you have won a prize.”

He mentioned Taipei’s Department of Labour as an example of a team that preserved and won its first gold medal this year.

First prize winners collect NT$400, 000 (US$12, 388 approx.)

Mayor Hau and his team from the Taipei City Government defeated the Presidential Office Team during an invitational race on Thursday, day one of the competition.

“To those teams that did not win any prizes, because you are here our event is a success, come next year and win the prize,” he said.

Watch I Witness-News video coverage of the dragon boat festival below

This year’s event brought together experienced dragon boat rowers as well as those who were participating in the event for the first time.

“I love the team spirit aspect and the teamwork aspect because it is one of those sports where everyone has to work together and be in rhythm and sync at the same time,” Lynn Lee of the Dragonriders told I Witness-News.

Lee has been competing since 1995 and joined the Dragonriders last year. The team comprises mainly Mandarin Training Centre alumni.

Lee said that in dragon boat racing, no one person can ensure victory.

“Everyone has to be working together. It is such a beautiful thing when you feel that rhythm of the boat surging forward ‘cause everyone is rowing together in sync,” he said.

Jillian Steward, a member of the Mandarin Training Centre team, was participating in the event for the first time.

“Me and my teammate we have been practicing for the past two months and it’s been really hard ‘cause we’ve had to wake up at six o’clock every morning and come here and row,” she said.

“But I think it’s been worth it because I am friends with all my teammates now,” she added as she mentioned the favourable results her team had had when I Witness-News spoke to her on Thursday.

“All that training is paying off. It’s a lot of fun.”

Tan Theam Boon, captain of Team Anak Malaysia and his team were also participating in the competition for the first time. The team placed second in its semi-final encounter in the men’s open division.

While he was pleased with the team’s performance, he said there were some challenges at the Taipei event.

“…We [lost] to some other teams. They are quite good, actually. And, maybe because we are not suitable to this kind of boat and we have a little bit of seating positions.”

The team also had same new members, having lost its oldest member Ricky Teoh who died last Christamas Eve and Alexander Chuah who succumbed to cancer that same month.

“That is why this year, wherever we go out, we will bring the flags for our memory,” he said as he pointed to a flag with the men’s pictures and emblazoned with the words, “You never row alone”.