Student Athlete Profile- Abbie Ryan

Post Competition Report 

I have just recently competed at the 13th World Nations Dragon Boat Championships in Divonne-Les-Bains, France! Both the lead up to the competition and the event itself were insane and I can reflect on it as one of the most intense and enjoyable experiences of my sporting life. This was my first experience racing in the Under 24 category, having competed at the two previous world championships as a junior! The team consisted of athletes from all over Australia and we had all been training in our own states under the guidance of our inter-state coaches.

A week before flying over to France, the Under 16, Under 18, and Under 24 contingent of the Australian team came together in Maroochydore for a 6 day training camp. The camp was designed to prepare us for the high intensity racing we were going to experience over in Divonne. We had around 3-4 on water sessions per day with each day finishing with 2km race practice. The training camp also provided us with a chance to get to know our teammates better, given that majority of us had never met before…

After a week of training in Queensland we flew to Divonne -Les-Bains, a tiny spa town on the French-Swiss border. We were all pretty exhausted after 24 hours of travelling so we spent our first night exploring the area around our accommodation and taking time out by the pool. We were super fortunate to have some time off before competition to visit Chamonix. Although arriving in Europe during the middle of summer, we got to experience a snow storm 4000 meters above sea level on top of Mont Blanc!!  Altering having the day off to acclimatise, we had two day of training at the race course. The training sessions were short and sharp with the focus being on race starts and connection with the water. It really wasn't until we started paddling on the race course that everything started to feel real. We were surrounded by teams from other countries including Canada, Thailand, Ukraine and Hong Kong! Going into any competition is always both nerve-wracking and incredibly exciting!

The first day of the World Championships was 2000m racing, the longest and most challenging distance in dragon boating. I had two races that day; a mixed 20’s 2km and a women’s 10’s 2km. In our mixed category we were up against Canada and Thailand who we knew were going to come out strong. In a 2km race each boat starts 20 seconds apart. We went off first with Thailand behind us and Canada chasing. The race was both mentally and physically exhausting but we were all extremely happy with how we performed! We managed to hold off Thailand, a country who has consistently meddled at previous world championships, until the final 300m which we were all super proud of! The women’s 10’s race, in which we raced against Thailand and two Canadian crews, was again extremely challenging! We ended up coming away with 2 bronze medals from our first day of racing which was incredibly exciting!

The second day of racing was 200m! Commonly referred to as the ‘splash and dash’, 200m is an incredibly quick race often performed at a seriously high rate! We received one bronze medal in the mixed 20’s race! Unfortunately, our women’s crew was unable to place but we learnt some valuable lessons that we were looking forward to putting into practice during the last day of racing!

On the final day we raced 500m and came away with two bronze medals, one in the mixed 20’s and one in the women’s 10’s! It was an incredible experience being part of both those crews and feeling the difference between day one and day three! Spirits were definitely high on the last day of competition and we were all extremely proud of what we has achieved both on and off the water.

This was my fourth international competition and I always keep trying to improve and better myself as an paddler. I was so fortunate to be surrounded by 114 incredible Australian athletes who all share the same passion for dragon boating.Another thing that made this experience so special was having my brother there competing in the Under 18 category. Competition aside, the experience will be one that I certainly wont forget. By the end of the trip, our team had become like a family. Every aspect of the trip was memorable and I am super excited to compete alongside my team in the future!