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Dragons prove cool as ice

It was the battle which put amateurs against Olympians and in a 500-metre dash it was the unknown dragon boaters from Canberra who claimed the inaugural Champions of Champions title at the Burley Griffin Regatta.

In a star-studded field of rowers, canoeists, kayakers, surf-skiers and paddle boarders, the Ice Dragons' women's team blitzed its opponents in a 500-metre handicap race on Lake Burley Griffin.

It was the first time in Canberra that a competition had brought competitors from a range of water sports together.

Rowers from the London Olympic Games lined up against Canberra athletes who were keen to test themselves against the best.

And it was the Ice Dragons 12-strong women's team which celebrated as it crossed the line clear of its male clubmates.

Ice Dragons captain Yvette Roberts said: ''It's the first time we've had an opportunity to race against other water crafts and it was awesome to showcase water sports in Canberra on a fantastic day.


''We were basically out there just to have a fun day and see what we could do.

''It was exciting to have everyone around us … dragon boats are big and heavy so you're out there with the lightweight boats and we didn't think we had a chance.

''It really did feel like David v Goliath and it was intimidating lining up against Olympic athletes.''

The long day of racing started with individual clashes in each sport.

To prevent the lightning quick rowers, surf skiers and kayakers dominating, organisers implemented a handicap system.

Paddle boarder Brad Smith was the first off the line in the final. The women's dragon boaters started 21 seconds behind him.

The men's dragon boat team was off 39 seconds while the men's Olympic rowing four was the last to start, 100 seconds behind Smith.

By the time the men's four had the all clear to start, the women's Ice Dragons were more than halfway to the finish line.

The other crafts flew home and finished just behind the bigger and heavier dragon boats.

The Ice Dragons usually have 20 or more people on board.

However, the women's team was reduced to just 12 because some athletes were unavailable.

Roberts is in her fourth season of dragon boating while the Ice Dragons have been around for a decade.

The Ice Dragons went to the world club championships in Hong Kong early this year and Roberts wants dragon boating to become an Olympic sport.

''It's a different step up on the world level and that's why it's great racing against full-time athletes,'' Roberts said.

''Our sweep and our drummer called at about the halfway point that we were leading and even then we didn't have any expectation.

''We saw the kayakers and the rowers warming up beforehand and they were absolutely flying so we expected them to get home … maybe another 50 metres and it would have been different.

''We hope dragon boating is one day an Olympic sport so we're more than happy to mix it with the best in a race like this.''

The men's Ice Dragons team was a boat length behind while Olympic kayaker Steve Bird flew home to finish third.

The men's fours rowing team finished last, just behind the women's rowing four, which was made up of members of Australia's women's eights team from London.


Burley Griffin Regatta Champions of Champions: 1, Ice Dragon women (dragon boat); 2, Ice Dragons men (dragon boat); 3, Steve Bird (kayak).