Auroras do hard yards for worlds

VANESSA Mercer has endured plenty of cold, dark morning training sessions and has admitted to feeling like a “sook” in the conditions.

But thoughts of her determined dragon boat teammates training in the near-freezing waters off Victoria kept her motivated for the World Dragon Boat Racing Championships in Florida next month.

Mercer is one of two Sunshine Coast rowers, along with Ian Vivian, to be selected in the 16-strong Australian squad, the Auroras.

She said it was a privilege to be selected for the national team after 10 months of training and a series of gruelling fitness and strength tests.

“Due to the rigorous training and qualifying process the selectors followed this year, the Auroras will be the strongest team Australia has ever sent to the world championships. It's so great to be a part of that,” Mercer said.

The Australian team will be competing against national crews from all over the world, including China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Russia, New Zealand and the host country, United States.

Vivian said he was expecting tough competition at the 10th world championships, to be held in Tampa Bay from August 3-8.

“The standard of competition is going to be extremely high. Canada and a lot of the European crews have elite kayak and canoe athletes on their teams,” Vivian said.

“The Philippines and China are always outstanding, and we expect USA to take full advantage of being on their own turf.”

As well as daily training, the Australian team took part in a series of four-day training camps in Canberra, Sydney and the Gold Coast in preparation for the event.

Mercer said she was hopeful that the team's hard work would result in some high placings at the championships.

“Our Aussie team is in great shape and that's due to the dedication of everyone on the team. I think we're going to see some really good results,” she said.

“There have been a lot of cold, dark morning and evening training sessions on the water to get to the world championships.

“But whenever I felt like being a bit of a sook about the conditions, I thought of my teammates from Melbourne and Canberra, who were definitely doing it tougher than we were up here in sunny Queensland.”

For more information on dragon boating, or how to become involved, visit the Queensland Dragonboat Federation's web site at


The Australian team will compete in two types of dragon boats: standard boats of about 12 metres, carrying 20 paddlers, a steerer and the drummer; and a smaller boat carrying a crew of 12.

Race distances will be 2000m, 1000m, 500m and 200m.

The sport originated in China. Dragon boat racing is a ceremonial team paddling sport, where seated paddlers power a handcrafted wooden boat, led by an on-board drummer, whose beat provides the timing of the paddling stokes.

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