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Breast Cancer Survivors in Shanghai

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The info below the video was written by Pearl. The photo includes myself (the only rep from Dubbo) and another girl from Bathurst as well as the four from Orange. We were unable to get publicity in Dubbo, I guess one person is small rep, but very important visit to China as a rep of our team. I can honestly say it was a great experience and as Pearl says the crowd were so supportive. We were paddling against very young boys and a few girls. Grey haired old ladies most over 65 had no hope of a place but the whole idea was to show women who had breast cancer in China there is still active life to live. The publicity was huge and we felt we had done a good job.

Four breast cancer survivors from Pinnacle Dragons Abreast Club have just returned from an incredible 2 weeks in Shanghai.

Week one was taken up with Chinese Cultural activities at the Shanghai Secondary Polytechnic University (SSPU) in Pudong. Where dragon boating is very much part of university life (SSPU are the number 2 dragon boat team in Chinese universities).

Day for the dragon boaters began at 6.30 with 1½ hours of tai chi.

Immediately after breakfast it was two hours dragon boat training with SSPU head coach Mr Lu, on the canal running (sluggishly) through the university grounds. New to most of the team was training in a 10man boat, which is very different to the standard 20 man boats we’re used to.

Mr Lu had little English, the team had even less Chinese which led to some hilarious situations.

Afternoons were taken up with Chinese language, traditional brush painting, food culture, including how to prepare and cook squirrel fish.

Evenings were for visiting the circus or traditional tea house, traditional Hot Pot, a stroll along the Bund, a cruise on the river or, what became a favourite of all team members – in spite of risking life and limb crossing the road – a visit to a nearby shopping centre for Little Black Pig Dumplings – best ever tasted.

Week two – as guests of the Shanghai Dragon Boat association the team moved to Qingpu District, venue of the regatta on the Cao Gang River.

We’d been warned to expect media attention but were still taken aback to have Chinese TV crews turn up at the hotel to film the Australian team ‘settle in’. More TV crews were on hand next day when the team visited the Water Town across the road from the hotel. At the actual regatta more photos and filming plus 3 of our NSW girls were interviewed.

Twenty four teams invited to participate came from USA, Singapore, Hong Kong, Philippines, Korea, Japan, Macao, China – and Australia.

The Australian team consisting of 10 NSW, 2 Qld paddlers, were by far the oldest team (average age 63, compared with other teams average of about 26) we were also the only all women team. This was a special dispensation for two reasons:

Older Chinese women tend not to participate in sporting activities and there is reluctance among Chinese people to talk about breast cancer. The Shanghai DB Association hope the appearance of the Australian women’s team will go some way to encouraging older women and those diagnosed with breast cancer to take up the sport.

The races were 300m straight for both 10 men teams and the even smaller 4 man boats and the 3km.

Leaving the loading pontoon after the first heat of the 300m, broken English and sign language indicated a team wanted us for photos. Arriving at their room (yes all teams had large rooms - complete with guards, to rest and store gear,) we found the Koreans had formed a guard of honour for us – and with each race we completed the guard of honour just got bigger as other teams joined it. As for photos – we felt like rock stars, seemed every team there wanted to be photographed with the Aussies.

In spite of all the adulation we sensed there was an expectation the 3km would be just too much for us – how wrong they were with our girls putting in super lift for the last 50m to finish the 3km in 18:56.

It was impossible not to become a little emotional as the watching teams and huge crowds cheered us home the last 100m, even the water umpires and officials joined in.

Pearl Butcher

24th Sept 2015

Pinnacle Dragons Abreast - Orange