By Miles Surrey
The Cyprus National Dragon Boating team will be returning on Tuesday from the 11th World Championship Dragon Boat Racing competition with two bronze medals and a lot of pride.
The team of 35, in their first international appearance, were the clear underdog in Szeged, Hungary.
Other teams were able to bring as many as 500 athletes, whose spots were paid for by various sponsors, and there were over 3,000 total participants in the championship.
By contrast, the Cyprus team had no backers and had to fund their own travel and accommodations. Need compelled them to hold fundraising events at the Germasogeia Dam and they were only recognised in March as a national team by the International Dragon Boat Federation.
The Cypriot team placed third in both the 500-metre and 200-metre mixed senior A races on Friday and Saturday respectively. These races are for competitors aged 40 years and above. These accomplishments were a great feat for a team pitted against other countries with years of experience in international competition.
The only other countries that were appearing in their first world championships were Iran, Romania and Serbia.
Debbie Theophanous, who helmed the women’s boat in the championships, was very pleased with the way the newcomers were treated by the rest of the dragon boating community.
“What really impressed us was the hospitality, they’ve been so kind to us,” Theophanous told the Cyprus Mail.
After the five days of gruelling competition, athletes enjoyed a day in Budapest before returning to their normal lives and regular jobs.
Hopefully the team’s success overseas will translate into growing popularity for the sport on the island, and at the very least they deserve mountains of praise for their impressive accomplishment.