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Rising dragon-boating star

28 Feb 2017

Rising dragon-boating star Image

By Sunny Liu

Ballarat Year 12 student Craig Hagan first started dragon boating at the age of 12 and has been addicted to the sport ever since.

Craig, who has just turned 17, is the second youngest paddler on the Docklands-based Yarra River Dragons Dragonboat Club (YRD).

He takes the V/Line from Ballarat to Southern Cross Station at least three times a week and says he never gets tired of it.

“Dragon boating is a very addictive sport. It can be very competitive but it’s also good fun,” he said.

Despite the common belief that dragon boating is more a hobby than a profession, it is a sport practised competitively.

There are monthly state-level regattas and annual national and international competitions.

Mr Hagan will join his YRD national team to compete at the Australian National Championships in Albury, Victoria in April and will represent Australia as a member of the Under 18 Auroras at the World Dragonboat Championships in China in October.

YRD Dragonboat Club is one of the largest clubs in Victoria, with more than 70 active members.

It is very diverse and the athletes’ professions vary from student to doctors. There are boaters as young as Craig and some others in their 60s, who are all brought together by their passion for the sport.

“It’s a very inclusive sport,” YRD team captain Julian Duarte said. “But, at the same time, it’s also an amateur sport, so people come from different professions and age groups.”

Mr Hagan, who was born in the UK and moved to Australia with his family in 2010, says he has joined a big family through dragon boating.

“My teammates are always there for me, both inside and outside the boat,” he said. “It’s a very social sport because everyone needs to work together to make the boat move. No one person can make the team.”

Being in Year 12 and busy preparing for his VCE, Mr Hagan says it was challenging to balance intensive training and school.

“It is a big commitment for me and my family. But it has also helped me with many aspects of my life. It’s pushing me to the boundaries and is building up my perseverance and dedication,” he said.

Originated in ancient China as a cultural ritual, dragon boating has evolved into a highly competitive sport in Australia and Australian teams are shining on the international stage.

Mr Duarte said: “In Australia, dragon boating is not like the AFL. But it’s starting to get out there and it’s getting more and more popular each year. We hope it can be recognised as a professional sport just like rowing and sailing.”

Mr Hagan says he strives to be the best he can be as a dragon-boater and wants to paddle his way to the world stage.

“Dragon-boating is a lifestyle and is also something I want to pursue further in life,” he said.

Craig is seeking sponsorship to fund his travel and accommodation in China through a crowd-funding campaign at gofundme.com/help-me-get-to-the-world-champs.

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