Beirong (Bei) Xiong the IBCPC national representative for China has been super busy keeping her teams engaged. Here is Bei’s story of their goal to get to New Zealand in 2023.
China’s BCS paddlers set their sights on Karapiro
As these spirited new paddlers talk up their joy of dragon boating with family, friends and the media, a growing audience in China and throughout the diaspora are following their accounts through social media and online publications.
“Our goal is to make more breast cancer survivors in China aware of the benefits of the dragon boat lifestyle,” says IBCPC China representative Beirong Xiong. “The prospect of these survivor teams from mainland China paddling at Karapiro in 2023 is very exciting. I’m sure that many millions of women in China will learn about their experience and see that breast cancer survivors are living full and vibrant lives through mutual support and exercise.”
Beirong says word of these new teams is quickly catching the interest of China’s local, regional and national media, bringing their stories to light in a country where breast cancer dragon boating is still a very new phenomenon. In the mountain city of Kunming, in Yunnan Province, breast cancer survivors made history last October staging the first ever all breast cancer survivor dragon boat festival in mainland China. CCTV News, China’s most watched nightly TV news program brought national exposure to the team during the annual Duan Wu festival.
In this issue, we bring you firsthand accounts from both Shanghai and Beijing Dragon Sister teams. We also hear from members of a new breast cancer survivor team forming in Toronto, Canada. Inspired by the success of their sister paddlers in mainland China, this group of diaspora women say they are determined to get into shape and to take part in the Karapiro 2023 meetup.
Since our last update the Dragon Sisters have maintained their training with ZOOM support from Beirong and, in the case of Shanghai, were still on the water as late as Boxing Day. Hold on to your seat pads as they take you on their journey to New Zealand!
Shanghai Dragon Sisters
Suffering from cancer is unfortunate, but it is also a blessing to be able to reawaken the love of life, reflect on the meaning of life, and create a healthy lifestyle with a group of sisters through this experience!
According to reports, this winter will be a particularly cold one in Shanghai. The Shanghai Dragon Sisters were a little worried at the beginning of the winter. They did not want to stop practices too soon since everyone so treasures and enjoys our weekly dragon boat practices.
The Peisheng training club sits on the Zhang Ji Bang River, where the scenery on both sides includes high rise buildings, trees, noisy crowds and a quiet place where you can hear birds. There are often people who love the winter outdoors swimming with us. We ride the wind and waves together. Whenever the Dragon Sisters work together, shouting the same slogans, waves split the water and push the boat forward. The daily worries, stress, pressures and fears can be thrown away with the waves. When we rest, everyone leans their paddles against the boat's side, enjoying the rippling waves, straightening their hair, drinking from their thermoses, patting each other's backs and exchanging on their technique. Nothing is more pleasant than spending our practice breaks, or “tea times,” together. Starting from the first launch on June 13, 2020, today (Boxing Day) is our 22nd training.
Several coaches have instructed us. Some are strong and powerful, some are young and handsome, but they are all very kind, funny, dedicated and meticulous. At the beginning, our physical strength, posture and rhythm were not good. The coaching started with small group sessions. Little by little we made progress. With encouragement from the coaches, our Shanghai Dragon Sisters were very happy and continued to progress.
The temperatures had a significant drop in December and everyone had doubts about how to go forward. But the difficulties were no match for our love of dragon boating. Some sisters are equipped with waterproof and heat-preserving gloves to avoid irritation to hands and joints in cold water; some sisters put on waterproof jackets to resist accidental splashes in the back row; everyone takes a few sips of hot water during breaks. The preparations are in place and we really put our training to work. We don't feel the chill.
In the summer, Shanghai Dragon Sisters attended two local dragon boat festivals. Our practices really paid off, and we saw how much more work we have to do to improve our strength and technique. We have learned a lot from the dragon boat competitions. We saw we need to have our own dedicated steersperson and drummer. The stroke paddler not only needs good fitness, she also needs to cooperate with the drummer and seat partner to keep a steady pace and rhythm. We now have our own steersperson. Water practices in 2020 definitely gave us the confidence we needed.
Under the guidance of the coach, we have seen our technique and endurance really come together. Compared with just a few months ago we are like a different team! Next, we will do more exercises to improve our physical fitness and competition skills.
No matter where people are in the world, 2020 was a difficult year indeed. As we near the end of the year the Shanghai Dragon Sisters are celebrating our achievements and discussing preparations for New Zealand 2023. We are using our hearts to paint a beautiful dream and will step forward with confidence. We look forward to getting together and paddling with each other in beautiful New Zealand!
Beijing Dragon Sisters
Since the beginning of last year, due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, Beijing’s Dragon Sisters have no longer been able to sail through the water and cut the waves.
Everyone could only workout in their own apartments and greatly missed the opportunity to exchange and communicate face-to-face. Then we were so happy to discover the Central Lake docks at the Olympic Park. From July to November the Beijing Dragon Sisters held eight practices at the Olympic Park under the leadership of captain Wang Xiuzhu and coach Xiao Lang. We cherished every poolside training opportunity and worked very hard to overcome all our difficulties.
We not only improved our dragon boat skills in preparation for the 2023 Participatory Dragon Boat Festival in New Zealand, but also strengthened our physical fitness to prevent illness from the virus. We dragon sisters enjoy the happiness that each dragon boat training brings.
Paddling poolside is a bit deeper than padding in our dragon boat and the water resistance is much greater. But this did not diminish our determination. Beijing sisters treasure every training opportunity, we keep our focus and good form in every stroke.
"Everybody, paddles up, take it away!" Following the order of Coach Xiao Lang, the Beijing Dragon Sisters reach forward, put their body weight onto the paddles and push the boat forward. “All together ... one, two! one, two!" The chants resound across on the water. The ladies start to warm up with a few sessions of 20 strokes, until we reach 60 strokes in one stretch. At the end of 60 strokes, we feel tired and sweaty but no one complains. We are happy and feel proud.
The dragon boat sport requires teamwork as well as endurance. In each training session the coach and team captain always try to motivate the paddlers, focussing on different techniques, looking forward and staying in sync.
When we practice the race plan, drummer Xiaojun will call "Finishing!" and accelerate the drumming pace. Everyone grits their teeth and gives everything they have, 12345 up! 12345 up! ‘til we pass the finish line.
Although our dragon sisters avoid their affected arms, they still feel their arms and bodies are sore after each practice. We help each other massage and stretch our muscles during breaks. We encourage each other and always have smiles on our faces. From November we have been in winter training following coach Beirong’s fitness program, checking in and posting our workout results on our team Wechat group. Everybody hi-fives each other.
This is how the Beijing Dragon Sisters face and overcome challenges. Our goal is to be the first BCS dragon boat team from China to attend an IBCPC world dragon boat event. We will be proud to attend the 2023 IBCPC Participatory Dragon Boat Festival in New Zealand. We have started our winter training program designed by coach Beirong and look forward to meeting other dragon boat sisters from around the world in just a few more months! Paddles up!
Not content to develop breast cancer paddling in China, Beirong has also been working with a group of breast cancer survivors in Toronto, Canada to help them to come back to fitness and joy post a diagnosis of breast cancer. The exciting thing is that they are now ready to form a new dragon boat team. Here is their story.
Toronto Phoenix Sisters
In Toronto, by Lake Ontario in the beautiful maple leaf country of Canada, there is a group of BCS called Fire Phoenix.
As the pandemic raged on in 2020, many events of the Toronto Fire Phoenix BCS group had to be held online. On November 11, the Phoenix sisters attended Beirong Xiong's Zoom presentation where she shared her 14 years recovery experience through exercises, especially through dragon boat training. Her story and fantastic result give us hope. From Beirong we learned that there are several BCS dragon boat teams in mainland China who have followed Beirong's guidance for over one year. We are deeply impressed by these China Dragon Sisters for their determination, mental outlook and athletic physique. After her treatment, right from scratch, Beirong devoted herself to dragon boat sport activities. With strict self-discipline and persistent training, coach Beirong competed in three world championships with Team Canada, and then devoted her time to establishing breast cancer survivor dragon boat teams in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities in China. She provides guidance on fitness and dragon boat training for the paddlers. As a breast cancer survivor, Beirong's positive attitude towards life is affecting the people around her to follow in her footsteps.
Through our sharing sessions with Beirong, the Phoenix Sisters learn about coach Beirong's recovery and life journey, and we deeply admire her unremitting efforts. Coach Beirong’s sunny, outgoing and positive personality are truly contagious and have had a great impact on the Phoenix sisters. After the sharing session, under the planning and instruction of coach Beirong, Phoenix BCS formed their new fledgling dragon boat fitness program, which was divided into four training groups according to their own medical and physical conditions. Coach Beirong provides step-by-step training programs through videos that help the sisters strengthen their bodies with aerobic and strength training exercises.
Although it is only entry-level physical training at this stage, the Phoenix sisters Phoenix take it very seriously and everyone posts their daily workout results for all to see. Each group also conducts online exercise sessions to encourage each other and to correct any mistakes. In just over a month, participating Sisters have felt significant physical changes and they feel their fitness greatly improving.
The dragon boat sport has attracted more and more breast cancer survivors around the world. Coach Beirong hopes to bring two breast cancer dragon boat teams in China to attend the 2023 New Zealand International Dragon Boat Festival. The Phoenix sisters share this dream and also hope to attend this wonderful gathering.
It is an indisputable fact that Phoenix sisters have difficulties here and there, and life is not easy for them. However, coach Beirong, with her warm kindness and enthusiasm lit the lights for the sisters to go forward. We Phoenix sisters are striving forward hand in hand in the same boat! The pandemic has brought much hardship to us and we have experienced both sad and touching moments. It has also brought out the best in us. Let us put out all our effort in 2021!
We look forward to meeting with BCS paddlers from around world in New Zealand 2023!