Peking University Alumni Awakens the Dragon at the LA County Dragon Boat Festival
Irwindale, California (October 10, 2023) – The LA County Dragon Boat Club, led by Team USA Juniors Coach Nathan Salazar, hosted its season-ending festival at the Santa Fe Dam on October 7th, 2023. With the San Gabriel mountains as a backdrop to the sparkling freshwater lake, the Peking University Alumni Team (LACDBC PKU) had a very exciting and triumphant day of competition. With one-hundred teams from across the USA and the world, in nearly 100-degree temperatures, the ancient Chinese sport of dragon boat racing was on full display for all to enjoy!
LACDBC PKU had one goal, to compete well against young, fast, and physically strong teams within their club and internationally in the 16-boat Corporate Division. The 6-lane competition sprint course was 250-meters long with variable wind conditions. PKU won its first racing heat in a photo-finish by less than half a second, and cruised to a comfortable victory in the semi-final heat. This positioned PKU to face the top corporate teams including ones from Dubai, the Philippines, and the heavily favored LAPD in the 6-boat final race.
Only 5 women and 5 men were allowed in a boat, where the PKU team consists of doctors, professors, engineers, scientists, and other experienced professionals that train year-round under Coach Nathan and his assistant coaches. For the final, a substitution was made to bring in Coach Tek Li, an alumnus of PKU from the Northern California Dragon Boat Club who also trains the Team USA U24 paddlers.
With a last-minute change from Coach Li in stroking strategy as we approached the starting line, PKU simply committed to doing their best regardless of the outcome as a few teams in the finals had slightly faster finishing times in prior heats. Fractions of a second may mean the difference between making or missing the podium.
PKU had a good, but not perfect, start at the whistle, yet they slowly gained ground on the competition throughout the race. At the midway point, it truly was their race to win or lose, but they kept their composure, stuck with the racing plan, and held on to win by half a second at the finishing line!
The team reminisced on how hard they worked throughout the season to reach this level of competition and performance. They dedicated this hard-fought victory to Coach Nathan, his assistant coaches Steve Evans, Reyna Soriano, Arnold Pangilinan, and all the LACDBC members that make those early morning training sessions fun, enjoyable, and educational while exhausting. This was an extremely proud moment that PKU plans to carry into the next season! (By: Charles D. Norton )