Quebec Cup Recap PART 3: Camaraderie, Competition and Community: Caravela at the Quebec Cup!

(Click here for Part 1 (Verdun Makes an Impact at the Quebec Cup!) and Part 2 (Grit, Guts, and Glory! Verdun Women make Dragon Boat History!)

Caravela, composed of blind and partially sighted paddlers (BPS), has been training as a team since the beginning of the season, and have officially been integrated into the Verdun Dragon Boat Club.

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Their first year ever competing in the Quebec Cup showed focus and guts!

Caravela demonstrated some serious mettle in their races! Captain Josh Simmonds proudly described the Quebec Cup competition weekend experience as “adding another layer of grit and chutzpah to our team. Congrats gang!”

Showing Focus, Perseverance, and Commitment

And indeed, courage and grit is what it takes for this team of blind and partially sighted paddlers to do what they do best.

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Imagine the cacophony of sounds that is dragon boating during regular trainings or in the paddling tank, and magnify that hundred-fold to levels in the competition! Distractions, yelling, splashing, coaches’ conflicting bellowed instructions creating added confusion to the already jostling on the boats.

Yet Caravela paddlers showed true focus and professionalism as they calmly boarded the boats, kicked some serious paddling butt out there, and improved their timings for their 500m races.

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 From the Perspective of a Caravela Paddler

Ioana Gandrabur has been paddling with Caravela since May and has enjoyed the experience of being on the water and competing! In her words, “Loved the 2k with all the turns and sense of adventure being in the front of the boat avoiding buoys!”

Far from what most of us would imagine being a truly intimidating, overwhelming, and over-stimulating situation of noises, splashes, and the general mass chaos that is a race, Ioana reflects that the adrenaline of being in a 2,000 metre race with seven turns gave her “a moral boost and a kick.”

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The fellowship among Caravela teammates, both non-sighted and “sighties” is evident in the easy camaraderie that is displayed both between races and on the boat itself.

It is truly a testament to the unique character and nature of the Verdun family when you witness so many volunteers offering to join in last minute at the Quebec Cup on a Caravela boat that is not quite full.

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Being visually impaired can in fact heighten your focus in other areas, making you “grounded at the task at hand.” Working in collaboration with their sighted counterparts who are tasked with the responsibility of navigating around sloppily dumped paddles and life jackets, Caravela paddlers were able to focus on the race, competing against themselves and their own timings, as well as build cohesiveness as a team.

Kudos to you all, Caravela! You showed true heart and perseverance in what was a tough season.

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Speech! Speech! Thank you, Coaches Ira and Sheri, for a Terrific Dragon Boat Season!

Over ten races and a weekend of grueling competitions later, at the post-Quebec Cup celebratory potluck, Coaches Ira E. Lax and Sheri Cameron were presented with huge cards featuring a collage of photos capturing key moments in races and practices throughout the season.

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Signed by every paddler, this was an important testament and tribute of our extreme appreciation for the guidance that they have given us through the season, who pushed, cajoled, encouraged (threatened, provoked ;)), and challenged just the right amount to bring out the best and strongest in us.

Messages revealed how the lessons learned, leadership shown, and gutsiness displayed translated far beyond the paddling tank, but have had real life implications in both professional and personal lives, as athletes, as community members, as paddlers.

A veritable community and family has been cultivated thanks to the efforts of our two dedicated coaches who have truly led by example.

Thank you Coaches Ira and Sheri!

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Presented by Verdun Dragon Boat Club President Suzie Ferland, toasts of champagne and calls for impromptu speeches were quickly followed by another Verdun tradition – the annual ‘Ira’ group hug pouncing on an extremely reluctant Ira!

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 Cheers Verdun! And here’s to another fantastic season.

 

(Click here for Part 1 (Verdun Makes an Impact at the Quebec Cup!) and Part 2 (Grit, Guts, and Glory! Verdun Women make Dragon Boat History!)

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Quebec Cup Recap PART 2: Grit, Guts, and Glory! : Verdun Women make Dragon Boat History

(Click here for PART 1 of the Recap of the Quebec Cup)

But it was the exciting Women’s 2k in the Sports division that really stopped everyone in their tracks at the Quebec Cup!

Described by some as “roller derby on water,” “bumper cars,” “a multi boat tangle,” and “that Pacman race,” Verdun Women’s newly named Spice Force fiercely held their own as they were crunched, tossed, smashed, and crashed into from both sides, sandwiched between women’s teams determined to pass them, and jostled by the waves of ominously close boats. Spice Force took no prisoners!

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This is how it’s done, superwoman style!

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Neck to neck, we will never forget the sounds of paddles clashing, the yelling, the strain to keep going, the suction of water drawing us alarmingly close to the neighboring boats…

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Dragon Boat History was Made!

It was Full Body Contact in the Women’s 2k! In the endeavor to pass each other and ride the waves, boats were overtaking one another right, left, and center, in a level of competitive and determined aggressiveness you have never seen! The sounds of paddles smashing, boats crunching together, paddlers yelling obscenities, as well as some intimidating curses and gestures.

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Verdun Women refused to yield, even to the stronger teams. We may not have been first, but we were sure as heck not going to be passed if we could help it, and subsequently gained notoriety for successfully scaring half the teams on the water with our ferocity!

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Holding our own against some incredibly strong women’s sports teams in what Captain Mélanie Desjardins called “that rocky road race that felt more like a fencing competition at times,” clarifying that it was not profanity and intimidating proximity that was being thrown at us from angry boats and angrier coaches frustrated at Verdun refusing to yield, but “boat hugs”. Sure, Melanie, sure 😉

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There’s a race the judges won’t forget for a while, and will most certainly go down in dragon boat history. Check out the video!

 

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And to make a perfectly dramatic exit, we were still so pumped on such adrenaline and pride for Coach Sheri Cameron masterfully navigating us through that traffic jam, that our cheers overshadowed her bellowed directions, meaning we plowed right Into and ONTO the dock, effectively hooking the boat on at such an awkward angle, that human chains were required to help each paddler disembark!

Us Verdun Women believe in leaving an impact, making a perfect ending to an already hair-raising day 😉   

Verdun Women - Alex - 3(Photo Credit: Alex Boros)

Back on shore (and twenty seconds of penalties for our lawlessness later- but what a race! The excitement and statement we left more than made up for that), Coach Sheri debriefed the women with “That was truly a GUTSY race! A race which showed sheer Guts, Grit – and determination,” and acknowledged that it was one of the craziest 2Ks she’s ever been in (and Sheri has competing in Nationals!).

She commended Verdun’s female warriors for having the courage to compete and hold our own against very high performing teams.

And indeed, the announcers and race marshals agreed it was quite possibly THE most exciting race in the history of the competition!

Stay tuned for Part 3 of the Quebec Cup Recap to read more about team trust and how our Blind and Partially Sighted (BPS) team Caravela experienced being on the water!

Quebec Cup Recap, PART 1: Verdun Makes an Impact at the Quebec Cup!

Quebec Cup: Here we Come!

Verdun wrapped up an impressive dragon boat season with the Quebec Cup, the final competition in the Triple Crown Circuit at the Olympic Basin, in an intense race weekend! (The other two races are the H²0 Open in May and Montreal Challenge in July).

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Taking place during the heat wave weekend of September 16-17, Verdun Impact, Women’s, Men’s and Caravela geared themselves up for a grueling set of 500m races, 200m sprints, and a whopping 2km race with those dreaded seven turns!

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(If any of you dear readers are wondering how the 2k race works, it is exactly what it sounds like – one 200 metre sprint followed by a tight turn around designated buoys, followed by another sprint, turn, sprint, turn, rinse, wash and repeat- seven times!

Oh – and did I mention you are on the water with around 13-16 other boats, each with their own race plan, coach bellows, boats clashing in the endeavor to overtake one another, split second decisions of how to take advantage of a boat’s wash while shaking off incoming boats off your tail, the splashing and yelling compounding the already distracting distractions on the water?

N.B.: This is different from the usual 2km race format, like at the Montreal Challenge, which are four 500m sprints across the water factoring in three turns)

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Verdun shows Teamwork

The vast majority of Verdun paddlers competed over 10 times, joining multiple teams. Crazily tight overlap in the mixed community schedules for Impact and Caravela resulted in many demonstrating incredible camaraderie and teamwork as paddlers came off the water, got debriefed from their race, and then about-faced for yet another turn on the water for a back-to-back race with a second team!

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(One cheerful warrior teammate, who shall remain unnamed 😉 persisted in his commitment to the teams despite painful tendinitis, resulting in him paddling on his opposite side, returning from each Brute Force, Impact, and Caravela race having accumulated yet another paddling-related injury and visit to the first aid tent – sore wrist, locked hip, chafed rear… That shows true loyalty to take one for the team! Marc, you are our hero!)

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Paddling as the Sun Rises

The weekend started off very early, paddlers sleepily but excitedly greeting the dawn with a spectacular view of the sunrise overlooking the Olympic Basin, the Montreal Biosphere, and the Champion boats, waiting patiently on the water.

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Trudging over to the Basin, we are in the good company of other paddlers laden down with paddles slung over their shoulders, and sporting a colorful array of impressive jerseys. Cautiously non-committal friendly conversations ensue, as we try and assess which teams hail from. As we part ways to join our respective crewmates, we nod and give a curt, “good race – see you on the water.”

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Verdun took up residency in a prime location just alongside the dock and behind the viewing tent, providing some incredible and unobscured views of the dramatic races! (Well, until we were blasted out by an overly keen race marshall, that is…). We took up shop alongside our friends (and sometimes rivals) RBC, coached by none other than the “other” Lax brother, whose paddlers often join forces with Verdun for competitions.

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Getting debriefed by Coach Ira, Impact started the race weekend with clear outlines of the objectives we set out to focus on – paddle with Intention, be cohesive as a team, respond to the Coach’s directives, and keep in pace with the pacers.

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And this streamlined focus on key pointers paid off!

Verdun Makes an Impact at the Quebec Cup!

Coming into the Quebec Cup, Impact was ranked fourth in cumulative points in the Triple Crown, relative to over 51 mixed community teams in our division! This means that points accumulated in the first two competitions (H20 and Montreal Challenge) set the ranking as we entered the Quebec Cup.

With the teams that ranked third and fifth not competing in the Quebec Cup, it was up to us to defend our ranking against the team placing sixth for that coveted third spot…

With Coach Ira E. Lax’s encouraging cheer of “We’re aiming for podium, folks. Let’s do this!” in our heads, Impact, joined by some members of Verdun Force, truly gelled together and shaved off a full five seconds from their 500m race timing in the Montreal Challenge to an impressive final timing of 2minutes 18seconds!

The end result? Verdun left the Quebec Cup with an impressive 479 points, reaching our objective of ranking Third overall in the Triple Crown, relative to over 63 mixed community teams!

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When asked for his overall impressions of the season, Coach Ira reflects, “Impact showed its mettle this season by racing hard in all three Triple Crown events, one of the few Community (Division 3) teams to do so!

The boat was full at practice all season long, and you could feel the positive vibe from the crew. A full boat plus lots of racing equals a faster team.

Heading into Quebec Cup, the crew was optimistic about its outcome, having gelled as a team throughout the season.

I am proud of the team for finishing 3rd in the Triple Crown against so many other crews and I am looking forward to another amazing season!”

It’s also revealing to note that Verdun Impact, having competed in Mixed Finale B for the Montreal Challenge 2km race, competed in the Mixed Finale A division for the same race in the Quebec Cup. Bravo Impact!

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 “One, two, three – BRUTE FORCE!”

Verdun welcomed three new teams this season – inaugurating Verdun Men (Brute Force), Verdun Women (Spice Force), and integrating the previously independent Caravela team into Verdun’s ranks as an official member of the Verdun Dragon Boat Club.

The Men’s finished fourth in the Open division, demonstrating some impressive timings in the Triple Crown Circuit for a new team!

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Timings of 2.16 and 2.17 minutes in the Montreal Challenge were replaced by 2.13 minutes for both 500m races in the Quebec Cup, showing true cohesiveness as a team! Captain Emir Moreno gives a special shout-out to the women who joined on Brute Force races, especially Kim and Sheri who often steered.

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Grit, Guts and Glory: Verdun Women Make Dragon Boat History!

But it was the exciting Women’s 2k that really stopped everyone in their tracks. Find out more in Part 2! An epic adventure!

Paddling by the Light of the Moon – and Fluorescent Wrist Bands ;)

There is truly nothing quite like paddling at night.


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When everyone else is (sanely) warm and inside, we valiantly stay on the water and are usually the only brave boats out, paddling by the light of gorgeous sunsets – and then the moon.

It is truly a spectacular sight, so serene and still, the water shimmering like glass, the dip of the paddles in the water the only sound obscuring the silence of the evening, our shadows gliding past the walls of the Canal, illuminated only by our coach’s headlamp.

Pretty special and awe-inspiring.

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Takes a pretty unique set of athletes to do this, but then hey, we’re Verdun 😉

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As the sun starts to set earlier and earlier, our dragon boat practices have become no less rigorous, especially with the Quebec Cup, the final series of competitions in the Triple Crown, being just around the corner!

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With Coaches Ira and Sheri tacking on additional practices for the men and women’s teams, paddlers can be found on the water as late as 9pm!

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To help keep us synchronized, we don fluorescent bracelets on our top arms. What an incredible sight that makes!

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Blinded by the piercing white light of the headlamp, all you can see are top arms lit by bracelets in an array of fluorescent greens, blues, oranges and purples, churning away in a smooth and continuous motion of fierce strokes ripping through the water.

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In the absence of any visual cues, you hear, rather than see the huge boat silently approaching, its presence being made known by the “shok- shOOOOsh, shok shOOOOsh” and blinding headlight indicating another boat approaching. (Unless you’re an OC – outrigger canoer – that is, who doesn’t believe in wearing headlamps. As Coach Sheri warns, watch out, OCs! If we crash into you, it will hurt. We’re just two tons of charging force, is all).

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The water all glassy and calm, it parts a path for the boats coming through, wristbands reflected in the waters below in a distorted but hypnotic and mesmerizing way.

 With the recent addition of the extra practices in preparation for the Quebec Cup, Verdun paddlers are ever on the ready! Calmly unloading from our Impact practice boat to our respective women’s and men’s ones, we’re in it for the long haul. Bringing aboard water and energy drinks, stashing a change of sports clothing in the hangar, or changing into long-sleeved merino shirts mid-practice, we embark on the second set of practices with energy and good spirits!

Good-natured ribbing takes place between the women’s and men’s boats as it soon becomes apparent that we are the only ones on the water…

Cold, wet, and hypnotized by the dark, dark, water and the feeling of camaraderie, we put our backs into each stroke and “empty the tank” as we prepare for another exciting and adrenaline-inducing weekend of competitions!

Join us some evening on the water – you will leave changed…

 See you at the Quebec Cup!

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Photo credits go to Aliyah Jessa, Randy Pinsky, and Jane Xie

Verdun Rocks on at Rawdon!

“Paddles to the Left, Paddles to the Right!”

This past weekend, the dragon boat deities smiled down upon Verdun’s Impact, Force, and women’s teams as we competed at the 22D Dragon boat festival in gorgeous wild Rawdon! Legendary for the beach are their unorthodox race lengths, featuring a deceptively difficult small bend at the finish which every steerer dreads…

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Delivering at Rawdon!

Defying predicted forecasts of 90% chance of rain, the teams trained, prepped, and delivered on the water, coming up with a respectable 3rd place D final for Impact, 2nd place B final for Force, and the (as-yet-nameless) fierce Women’s team bringing home the Silver in Final A under sunny skies! Verdun showed Rawdon how it’s done.

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With a tail wind at our backs, the teams showed their mettle on the water in spite of the race course being adapted to unusual two 400m races and one 200m sprint, rather than the customary 500m and 250m races.

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While there was a fair amount of confusion of the multiple “pink (dock) girls” creating mass havoc at the docks as boats loaded, competed, and returned; moody and hungry officials who bellowed French obscenities if directions were not complied to immediately, it was a terrific experience for all to compete on ‘real’ waters, as opposed to at the Olympic Basin or Lachine Canal.

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“A Truly Gutsy Race!”

Weeks of targeted technique training paid off as Impact gelled together, shaving off a full six seconds off the final 400m race. Coach Ira E. Lax debriefed the teams, incorporating our secret “Back Eight!” technique, giving leverage for the dramatic final seconds. Force gave honor to their name, coming neck and neck with rival boats.

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Joined by members of Senior Women’s and RBC, the Women’s team ended with a “truly Gutsy race!” in Coach Sheri Cameron’s words, as video footage of the dramatic nail biting final 400m shows them forging ahead in the lead – until the final few seconds when rival team BananaShip pulled a surprise from behind finish.

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But it was the 200m that really astounded the crowd as the boat shot forward with a strong start and maintained their positions a full boat length and a half ahead of the other teams! Bravo ladies!

Huge kudos goes to the women’s team for lightning fast reflexes when race officials called the start while they were still drawing to straighten up with the other boats.

And then there was the controversy of divided loyalties with Verdun Women racing against the Tiger Lillies, making our Petula having to choose between the Blue or the Orange… ;).

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Verdun DBC: Teammates On and Off the Water

The sense of camaraderie in Verdun’s DBC is something to behold – paddlers will volunteer to fill in on a boat at the drop of a paddle (see what I did there? ;)), and you will always see team members loudly cheer on our teams from the sidelines with enthusiastic bellows of “VerrrrdUUUUUUN!!” giving tired paddlers that last burst of energy.

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The Verdun Dragon Boat Club is about so much more than training and competitions – it’s about building community, both on and off the water! Every year, we bring out the BBQ for some serious chowing down- careful pre-race nutritious diets took a backseat as we devoured salads galore, an assortment of delis and meats, and an incredible spread of delectable desserts care of Camille and Angela. Not to mention Mr. Puffs!

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From BBQ King Naeem to ‘chicken lady’ Tammy, Verdun celebrated a solid race day to a background of music, friends, laughter and food, as we clinked champagne in plastic cups to celebrate the victory of the women’s team, before diving into the BBQ. Go Verdun!

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Verdun Gives Back: Painting Trinity United Church

Athletes by day, painters… on the weekend?

Ever wonder what Verdun Impact and Force dragon boaters do in their spare time? Some provide physio to clients, others show houses (or even coordinate Comicons!), while still others paint century-old churches!

Verdun’s fierce dragon boat club is known for three things: Competitiveness, Camaraderie, and Community. The commitment to give back to the community was demonstrated this past weekend when a brave group of paddlers trouped over to the wilds of Rosemont’s Trinity United Church. Armed with paintbrushes, ladders, and rollers, they set out to give this over 100- year old sanctuary a much-needed facelift.

The site of our popular Spaghetti night fundraiser in May, where paddlers joined forces to assembly line servings of delicious pasta, homemade pasta sauces, and a delicious array of baked goods (people are still raving about Angela’s carrot cake), we were thrilled to have held the event in the church, in exchange for our willingness to freshen up a few of the spaces. All thanks go to as Assistant Coach Sheri Cameron (teacher by day, paddler by night, and Sunday school teacher by weekend) for negotiating such a deal

Putting tape around the finicky and ornamental sconces and radiators with the patience of Mother Theresa, learning new Yiddish curse words from Coach Ira Lax as paint splashed despite best efforts, “Look at that shmutz. You need a shmatah for that.”), members of Verdun’s Impact and Force teams applied their creative sides to update the Church with a fresh coat of purple paint.

Boogying to a backdrop of ‘80s rock music, paddlers scaled various heights to cover the walls, power couple Beatriz and Emir climbed ladders with the finesse of Micheangelo (I still shudder when thinking of Emir reaching to paint the high ceilings, stretched on one flip-flop covered toe).

But what a difference! Never shall it be said that Verdun dragon boaters will abandon a church in need. As we say, “have paddle (or paintbrush); will travel”.

Fantastic race weekend at the Montreal Challenge!

What an incredible and fun weekend at the Montreal Challenge!

Leaving with Two Bronze medals, and a GOLD medal in the 500m final!!

Competing in torrential rains in between thunder and lightening storms, and then baking in the hot sun, it was a weekend of Teamwork, Camaraderie, Pushing ourselves beyond our Limits – and Rising to the Challenge!

Under the expert leadership of coaches extraordinaire Ira and Sheri, and our dynamic captains Maureen, Will, Mélanie, Emir, and Naeem, Verdun Impact brought a Bronze medal home in the 500m final, and a GOLD medal with our fierce women’s team! Congrats to the men’s team, Brute Force, for your Bronze in the 500m final!

 

Some amazing memories from the weekend:
  • Really feeling so much part of a team getting briefed by Ira and Sheri before the races, and then strategizing to work towards those goals and focusing on the catch, leaning out, giving more air time, reaching, and having an explosive start and finish
  • The incredible downpour that happened smack dab in the middle of the men’s Semi-final 500m race! and our guys, after shaking their heads at the initial shock, continuing on, undaunted!
  • Lining up to high five Team Caravela as they got off the boat from the 2k race – and Josh’s comments about his derrière being in an immense amount of pain from doing two back to back 2000m races with mens and Caravela 
  • Being ushered to the podium to receive our medals and really feeling part of a team
  • Hailey joining us for the pictures and playfully roughhousing with the Shockwaves mascot
  • Our mom sneaking in to join us in the high-five line-up (what can I say, she’s a huge fan :))

  • Vermont’s women’s team asking Us for advice on their stroke, after a long-standing rivalry!
  • Pushing through and beating our personal best times in the Women’s 500m final race
  • The good-naturedness of our paddlers who would fill in for Women’s, Men’s, or Carivela at the drop of a hat, despite what must have been certain exhaustion (Emir, Beatriz and David, this shout-out is for you)
  • Fun relay races as we warmed up for the Women’s team’s 2k
  • The Women’s team cheering on Sheri who excelled at the turns in the 2k
  • Jaw-dropping, seeing the dramatic sinking of the two boats in the men’s 2k…

  

And
  • That feeling of Powerfulness, Strength, Pride, and sheer Awesomeness in the Impact 2k – we really gelled together so well
  • The insane sense of comaraderie, pride of being part of such a high performing team, and hearing the cheers of “Go VERDUUUUNNNNN!” coming from the sides
Thank you again for such a fantastic weekend, an amazing feeling of achievement after that weekend, and the most incredible experience of being part of a team like Verdun. We did it!
 
Paddles Up!
Marian and Randy