The NYUAD Dragon Boat team tasted victory once again over the weekend at the Dubai International Dragon Boat Festival. Twenty students participated in the event (eight of whom participated in the Abu Dhabi Dragon Boat Festival this past October) and took home top prize in the School/University category after beating all the other teams in the "A" finals.
The race was very similar to the one the team competed in (and won) at the Abu Dhabi Dragon Boat Festival last October, when the NYUAD team squeaked by in the qualifying rounds to end up winning first place in the finals. This time, however, the crew beat its October 200-meter time (of 1 minute and 6.16 seconds) by more than ten seconds, finishing the race in only 54.27 seconds.
Team Captain Kiss and teammates Dasha Karaulova, NYUAD Class of 2014, and NYUAD RA Maria Funcheon (that's me, NYU Class of 2012) grabbed their paddles again after their win, having accepted an invite to paddle with the Abu Dhabi MAR, a semi-professional team, in the Premier 200-meter mixed race. After coming in second in the qualifying heat, Abu Dhabi MAR moved onto the "A" finals with five other top finishers in the premier league and once again took second place, finishing mere milliseconds behind the winning team.
The NYUAD crew left Dubai, heads held high and trophies in hand, already eager for the next race. Zarate Rodriguez, who had never before competed in a dragon boat competition, expressed interest in forming a group to practice the sport regularly. "I am very proud to say I was part of NYUAD's dragon boat team, an impeccable example of the power of teamwork and perseverance. I am looking forward to pulling the team together again after the summer!"
The team pulled together an extraordinary amount of strength, we cooperated like we had been practicing for months and drove that dragon boat past the other teams and straight to the finish line.
The day began with a bit of a setback for the NYUAD team when they placed third in their qualifying heat. Paddler Jorge Zarate Rodriguez, NYUAD Class of 2014 felt that perhaps the team's two practices had not prepared them for the intensity of the race. "To be honest," he said, "after losing the first heat to teams that seemed to be better trained, I felt we were way out of our league!" Disappointed, the team headed for lunch and mentally prepared for the "B" final race later that afternoon. But despite the rough start, the crew was surprised to find that their time had actually qualified them to enter the "A" finals, where they competed for the Festival's top School/University prize against five other teams.
With a few words of encouragement from team captain Csilla Kiss, NYUAD Class of 2014 and the steerer of the boat, who reminded the paddlers that "the pain will subside but the pride will last forever," the team took to the water with renewed energy and perspective. The NYUAD Dragon Boat team rose to the challenge and was first to cross the finish line, beating the second place team by a little more than a second. Zarate Rodriguez was impressed by the teamwork exhibited at the final race. He said, "The team pulled together an extraordinary amount of strength, we cooperated like we had been practicing for months and drove that dragon boat past the other teams and straight to the finish line. Team spirit really does take you far — we believed in ourselves and it showed!"
Photography by Maria Funcheon and Muhammad Islam