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What it takes to be a dragonboat racer - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

What it takes to be a dragonboat racer

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Colorful, festive and human-powered, dragonboat racing has taken the region by storm. Melissa Sheketoff took a trip out on the water to find out why.

Reporter Melissa Sheketoff: Hey everyone, excuse my attire, but I need all these things in order to learn what it takes to be a dragonboat racer. So, I have my go-pro on my oar, my head, and eventually one on my chest to see what it takes to hit the water.

The Dragonheart Vermont team made its first splash in Lake Champlain 10 years ago, to encourage women to push past the hardship of cancer. The original small group of breast cancer survivors has grown to a 150-member team of survivors and supporters divided into six groups -- including the Green Mountain Girls team for women from 50 to 59 and the Senior Warriors for members 60 to 84.

"For our older women, for the first time in their lives, they are athletes. And for our younger women, they hop in that boat and they think, 'Oh my God, this is one of the best things I've ever done,'" said Dragonheart Coach Linda Dyer.

Last year the Dragonheart Team competed in Hong Kong for the Crew Club World Championships and brought home a gold and silver medal. This year, both the younger and older teams are paddling for wins, in hopes to compete in Italy next year.

"Mind over matter," advised Linda Rhoads, a Green Mountain Girls team member. "When you get tired, you dig deep and you use your big core muscles and you know that the finish line -- every stroke you get closer and closer to the finish line."

And after some well-needed stretching and a lesson in properly holding a paddle, I was just hoping I could keep up with these fierce racers. Sound intimidating? It was enough to keep my paddle in the water and hopefully in line with the other 21 paddlers on my boat. And after two practice races -- a  total of 3,000 meters -- my arms weren't so happy. But my team members were supportive.

You don't know empowerment until you get in one of these boats. A sport that promotes strength to help racers move forward together and share -- a good time had by all.

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