• Filipino paddlers eye Olympic glory

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    PH-Dragon-Boat-team20130714

    Paddlers: The country’s best hope for an Olympic gold.

    The country’s gold medal drought in the Olympics may finally come to an end as several groups are pushing for the inclusion of dragon boat in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

    The Philippines is undoubtedly one of the powerhouse countries when it comes to dragon boat racing based on the past achievements of Filipino paddlers in world-level competitions.

    In fact, the national team under the Philippine Canoe-Kayak Federation (PCKF) won six gold and one silver medals in the prestigious 2012 International Canoe Federation (ICF) World Dragon Boat Championships held in Milan, Italy.

    The Filipino paddlers dominated the 200-meter 10-paddler (all-men), 200m 10-paddler, (6-men 4-women), 500m 10-paddler (all-men), 2,000m 10-paddler (all-men), 200m 20-paddler (12-men 8-women), and 500m 20-paddler (mixed). The lone silver was in 500m 20-paddler (all-men).

    “Without a doubt, we can keep pace with the best athletes in the world if not beat them despite our size. It’s one event that you don’t really need to be tall to win gold. We’re happy that there are groups lobbying to include dragon boat in the Olympics,” said PCKF national head coach Lenlen Escollante.

    “We’re backing all efforts to make it to the Olympics. It’s one of the best chances of winning our first Olympic gold medal,” she added.

    In 2011, the other dragon boat group – the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation (PDBF) – went home with five golds and two silvers in the 10th World Dragon Boat Racing Championships organized by the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) held in Tampa Bay, Florida in US.

    The team dominated the Premier Open 500-meter, 1000m men’s event, Premier Mixed 500m, Premier 200m Mixed and Premier Men’s 200m then placed second in the 200m All-Comers Men’s class and 500m All-Comers Premier Mixed.

    The PDBF is set to compete in the 2013 edition of the World Dragon Boat Racing Championships on July 23 to 28 in Hungary. This time, the team will be competing in the open category (200m, 500m and 2,000m), mixed event (200m, 500m and 2,000m) and the women’s division (200m and 500m).

    Leadership disputes
    However, there is a bitter leadership dispute between the PCKF and the PDBF.

    The PCKF currently enjoys all benefits as a duly recognized national sports association (NSA) by the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).

    The POC and the PSC granted the recognition to the PCKF in compliance with the instruction of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC declared that dragon boat should be under the canoe-kayak association.

    The PCKF is a member of the International Canoe Federation – the governing body recognized by the IOC.

    “We are willing to accept them [PDBF] in our group. Everybody’s welcome to join our tryouts,” said Escollante, stressing her desire to unify the sport.

    The PDBF, for its part, reiterated that dragon boat racing and canoe racing are totally different sports and should be under different associations.

    The PDBF is a founding member of the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF). But the IDBF is not an IOC member.

    “We’re open to any communication. In fact, there are some talks on this matter but we’re not allowed to talk or divulge minutes of the meeting. We really wanted to end this dispute, we just need to be heard and recognized,” said PDBF Secretary General Pinky Castillo.

    “We want to regain our full membership status with the POC as an NSA for dragon boat,” Castillo added.

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