The NYU Abu Dhabi Dragon Boat team took the top prize in the Schools/Universities category at the 3rd annual Abu Dhabi Dragon Boat Festival, held last Friday at the Shangri-La Hotel.
The festival hosted a vast array of teams from all over the UAE, including 12 university teams. After squeaking by with a win in its first qualification heat, the NYUAD team went on to the "A" Finals with five other teams. The competition was extremely close, and after a 15-minute delay after the race, NYUAD was announced the winner, by less than a second. In fact, the top three finishers all crossed the finish line within 1.5 seconds of each other.
The victory was a huge success — and admittedly, a bit of a surprise — for the team. After having only two practices — and with virtually all members of the team being brand new to the Dragon Boat scene — the NYUAD crew had a great start to its first race, but lost synchronization toward the end. However, based upon that early lead the team landed a spot in the finals, where the rowers were completely in rhythm for the entirety of the 200-meter race.
"I went to the race just expecting to have a good time and cheer on my friends, but I was amazed at how in sync the team was," said spectator Nicole Lopez Del Carril (NYUAD '14), "They're definitely good enough to compete again." Her roommate Alyazia al Shaibani added, "I was amazed they pulled it off. They looked so professional! I wasn't expecting them to actually win."
The team celebrated by screaming, hugging one another, and running into the water with their uniforms on. They later received individual glass trophies and a large team trophy for a job well done. Their classmates, alerted to the good news by a series of phone calls and text messages, were eagerly awaiting the conquering heroes return to Sama Tower, forming a human tunnel for the rowers to pass beneath in order to enter the building, with chants of "NYUAD" ringing through the air.