Earlier this month, the NYUAD Dragon Boat team participated in the first race of the season. After training hard for a month, the reigning varsity champions and a new junior varsity team were ready to compete against teams from across Abu Dhabi. We jumped into the buses and headed to the Shangri-La Hotel, which had an atmosphere that suited the event perfectly; we walked into a beach party with music, food, beach volleyball, and of course the races at the center of it all.
After warming up, we were all ready to jump into the boat and paddle to victory. Our first race was going to be the only heat before the final races depending on the result. The junior varsity boat was the first one to race. We were all relatively new paddlers with just a month of training behind us, but once we were behind the starting line we knew that it was time. Time to put into practice everything we had learned in the previous month: the technique, the strategy, and the mentality.
The start was called abruptly without much notice, but we were so focused in our boat that we still managed a very coordinated start. From there until the end of the race, as onlookers from our varsity team said, our dragon kept flying faster and faster as we followed our strategy and increased power. At the end of the race we were the third boat to cross the finish line, qualifying for the Final B race. The varsity team had an amazing first race and won their heat by quite a distance; the junior varsity team cheered them on as they secured a first place seed in the Final A race.
After a long break that we used to study and sleep, it was time for the finals to start. We had made some changes to our strategy and we were ready to give everything we had to finish the day with the best result possible. The junior varsity team finished in third place, with a time of 1:28.6, a great finish to a very exciting first race of the season as new dragon boat paddlers.
Soon after, the final university race began. This time the junior varsity team was joined by other NYUAD students who came out to support the varsity team as well. It was close start, all the boats were neck to neck for the first 50 meters and you couldn’t tell who was ahead. During the next 50 meters, the NYUAD team started to pull ahead, and at the halfway mark quickly started leading out in front. Our teammates started putting in all their power and their boat started flying. By the time they got to the last 30 meters it looked like they were in a race of their own. The varsity team won the race and the entire competition with a final timing of 1.09.5, taking first place for the third year in a row, and remaining undefeated!
The varsity team took another trophy home and I couldn’t feel more proud of my teammates. Half of them got the first place, which was something they had worked very hard for and that they deserved. The other half competed in a new sport, and after training for a month gave everything they had to achieve a good timing and a good place in their first competition. We all had a wonderful time, we put all our effort into the races, and we will learn from the experience as a whole. We’ll keep training, we’ll improve as individuals and as team, and we will give our best and get even better results in the next race, which we are all very excited about.