The Philippine Army dragon boat team brought pride to the country once again, bagging the gold medal in the small boat 800-meter Inter-Union Division event of the 10th Padang International Dragon Boat Festival in West Sumatra, Indonesia last week.
The tournament was joined by 15 countries, including Myanmar, Singapore, Hong Kong, Laos, Taiwan, Burma, Australia and powerhouse Indonesia, the strongest rival of the Philippines in Southeast Asia.
The Cherifer Premium-backed Army squad recorded three minutes and 36.39 seconds in the final race to top Indonesian teams Marwitim Surabaya with 03:39.73 and Dolphin Marinir Jakarta with 03:40.04.
“They couldn’t believe that the Philippine Army can beat the strongest teams composed of soldiers from their armed services,” said boat captain Sgt. Usman Anterola. “It only means that we are really at par with our neighbors in dragon boat sport.”
But the road to glory wasn’t easy for the Filipino paddlers. Due to flight delays, the team only had six available members for the quarterfinals. They were then forced to seek help from an Indonesia team with spare players to play with only eight men against the 10 required in the competition.
“Since it is allowed under the International Dragon Boat Federation rules, we borrowed two athletes from the Indonesian Team to act as our Steersman and Drummer,” paddler Pfc. Ramie Llano said. “We paddled with only eight members and prayed that our strength can compensate for the lack of two paddlers.”
Other team members were able to make it to the competition in time for the succeeding rounds.
Army chief Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, lauded the success of the Army Dragon Boat Team.
“The Army paddlers embodied the unrelenting spirit of every Filipino athlete, just as well, of every Filipino soldier,” said Bautista. “No retreat, no surrender, just pushing forward to finish with laurels. They are truly a source of national pride.”
Members of the Army dragon boat team are no strangers to internation wins. Seven of its paddlers were members of the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation squad, nicknamed the Dragon Warriors, that broke world records to bring home five golds and two silver medals in the International Dragon Boat Federation World Championship at Tampa, Florida last year.