Saturday, October 24, 2009

Roar of The Dragon Boats

PUTRAJAYA: Thumping drum beats, colourful "dragons" and the spirit of camaraderie at the first-ever Putrajaya International Dragon Boat Festival made it a truly lively affair. The three-day event was organised by Mega Events Sdn Bhd, in collaboration with Putrajaya Corporation (PPj) and the Tourism Ministry.

It kicked off last Friday and saw almost 3,000 visitors from across the globe coming to the Water Sports Complex here. Teams of 12 rowers each from nine countries including Singapore, Japan, Indonesia and the United Kingdom, made a total of 1,500 participants who tried to out-row each other on their dragon boats.

At the opening ceremony, Federal Territories Minister Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin said the event would help to put Malaysia on the world map. "In line with the One Malaysia concept of unity and integration, this event, which was once a Chinese cultural event, is now not only embraced by all races in Malaysia but also internationally," he said.

The minister said the event would also boost the administrative capital's image as a "vibrant and livable city" with the capability to host international events. The boat race was divided into two main categories -- International and Malaysian. The main categories had many sub-categories like the Open, Mixed, Women and Junior (below 23), among others.

LAMS team from Sambas, Kalimantan, emerged the overall victor. They were especially thrilled because they were amateurs compared to the other 20 competitors. Team leader Abdi Nurkamil said his members were used to rowing boats back in their villages but this was the first time they had won a dragon boat race. "We gave it our all and practised hard for two months to get where we are now," he said.

Team Splash, which snagged a gold medal in the Malaysian Corporate Ladies Crew category, were equally surprised and overjoyed at their win. "We just put the entire team together last month. We practised for three hours at least twice a week," said team leader, Kerk Chian Tung, 38.

"We were all gym buddies and when we heard about the event, we were drawn to give it a shot." Kerk added that the team gave their full commitment to train and sacrificed all their free time to practise.

"We were all really dedicated to the race and we came up with the motto 'We Paddle For The Whole Team' to motivate ourselves." She said the team members had now developed deeper friendships with one another. Mega Events advisor, Tan Sri Soong Siew Hoong, said he hoped the event would become an annual affair. He also revealed that the dragon boat race would be introduced as an event for the very first time at the Asia Games in Guangzhou, China, next year.

Visitors also thronged the 50 booths selling food, souvenirs and other goodies. Soong said proceeds from the booths would be donated to the Breast Cancer Welfare Association, Cervical Cancer Awareness Association, Selangor and Federal Territories Spastic Children's Association and other selected orphanages.

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