Paddlers place fourth in World MastersBy Robert MackenziePublished May 30 2017The Haliburton Highlands Paddlers dragon boating club is back in the county and ready to start their season after travelling 14000 km and placing fourth in the world’s largest multi-sport event.

The Haliburton paddlers Carolyn Ellis Lois Deacon Pamela Boyce Chris Whittemore Linda Shulist and Lillian Hall competed as part of Lindsay’s IB Dragon Boating Club at the World Masters Games in Auckland New Zealand this past month.

“It was awesome” Ellis said. “It was the first country I ever went to where I didn’t want to come home right away.”

“The country is absolutely gorgeous. You’re either looking at mountains or coastlines” Deacon added.

The World Master Games are held every four years and encourage participation in sport throughout life. Teams in the games compete for individual results and don’t represent the countries they hail from. The 2013 games were held in Torino Italy and featured almost 20000 athletes in 25 sports.

The competitions are split into age groups. The IB team raced in the 50-plus category with an average team age of 64 years.

“It was really neat to be able to race against people of a similar age” Deacon said. ”It’s all about competing at whatever level you’re able to.”

IB raced in four different events: the women’s 200 metre 500 metre and the mixed boat 200 metre and 500 metre. The highest finish for either team was fourth place which the women accomplished in the 200 m and the mixed team in the 500 m despite the wet and windy weather over the April 28 weekend when they competed.

“Being in the races was really exciting especially when we got to the finals” Ellis said. “We were just happy we didn’t come in last.”

Ellis credits head coach Carol Gonder for being able to prepare the team even though they hadn’t raced competitively since October.

“I can honestly say this is the first time I have ever raced and not known the result until afterwards” Ellis said later in an email. “We learned to focus on our stroke and not look at how the competition was doing which is pretty hard because it is all so exciting.”

The crew from Haliburton raced against teams from all across the world. Though Ellis said most teams were either from Australia or New Zealand there were also competitors from Germany Russia and French Polynesia among others.

Both Ellis and Deacon said the camaraderie between the opposing teams was a high point. “At the race site and even at practice…the camaraderie and friendliness of the competitors was great” Deacon said. “After we finished racing at the end of the day everyone was trading jerseys with each other.”

Now that the team has returned to Haliburton Ellis says they’re getting ready for their own season that will start in the coming weeks. But Ellis Deacon and the others are already looking ahead to future events.

The 2021 World Masters Games will take place in Kansai Japan and Ellis said that she is already thinking about taking part in the festivities once again.

“We’re all hooked now and will be looking to compete in other festivals around the world” Deacon said.