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EDBF European Championships Highlights

Russia Retains Nations Cup despite Strong Czech Challenge

01 October 2006
The EDBF European Nations Dragon Boat Racing Championships held in Prague from 31 August to 3 September saw high caliber racing among strong European crews. Hundreds of Czech dragon boating fans, spectators and supporters swarmed the regatta course grounds cheering on the athletes during the day and enjoying the bands and activities each evening.

Although Russia has proved strong in the past, Victor Kisselev, head of Russia’s DBF, was nervous about his crews prior to the races, saying that he hadn’t seen some of the crews in action prior to Prague. Ultimately, they withstood the test as Russia scored 2 gold medals and 3 silver medals, holding onto the Nations Cup in the face of serious competition from strong crews sent by Great Britain (2 gold, 1 silver), Czech Republic (1 gold, 2 bronze), Slovakia (1 gold, 1 bronze), Hungary (2 silver) and Sweden (3 bronze).

The event opened on Friday with 2000m races held at the famed Charles Bridge in the center of Prague. With hordes of spectators lining the bridges and riverbanks watching the spectacle, the home team won gold in the premier open and combined premier/senior women’s categories. Later in the evening, athletes and supporters were treated to live bands and a fireworks show back at the main event arena.

Saturday saw records snuffed in the 200m races further up on the Vlatava River where hosts Czech Republic won the 200m premier open with a time of 40.30. Russia followed closely behind with 40.34 and Slovakia took third with 40.54, besting finals times set at the 2005 World Championships in Berlin (2005: Russia 45.53, Canada 46.21, Philippines 46.30).

Russia improved the gold medal time they set in 500m premier mixed event at the 2005 World Championships by over eight seconds, with 1.46.16 on Sunday (2005: 1.54.37). Hungary took home silver and Sweden took bronze.

Scandinavia was back in action after a few years’ hiatus, represented by Sweden and Norway. Sweden was consistently good, taking home bronze in the combined premier/senior women 2000m, premier mixed and premier women’s 200m races and premier mixed 500m.

Slovakia proved strong, winning gold in the 500m premier open, silver in the 2000m premier open and bronze in the 200m premier open. Hungary scored well with their premier mixed and senior open crews both taking gold in the 2000m and premier mixed also taking home silver in both the 200m and 500m events.

Great Britain out paddled competitors from Russia, Czech Republic, Sweden, Italy, Poland, Germany and Hungary in women’s premier racing, winning gold in the 200m and scoring gold again in the 500m. Here too, teams pushed the envelope, shaving time off the World Championship results in Berlin. The fastest 200m grand final time in Berlin was over three seconds below the slowest time in the Prague grand final (WC 2005 fastest time: 50:32, EC 2006 slowest time: 47.11).

Hungary, Great Britain, Italy and Russia sent junior crews to Prague to test their skills. In the junior mixed 200m races, Hungary won the first heat and Great Britain won the next two heats, taking home gold. In the Junior Open, Russia came out tops with Great Britain second and Hungary third. In the Junior Mix 500m, Great Britain’s mixed crew topped Hungary in all three heats, coming home with the prize. Although Russia was clearly first in the Junior Open 500m, the race for second place was strongly contended between Hungary and Great Britain. Ultimately, the score was settled with Great Britain in second place and Hungary in third. If this is a peek at things to come, spectators can expect some great competition well into the future.

Racing activity wasn’t just limited to Europe´s national teams. Club crews from Czech Republic (including all-women’s club Nadace Materstvi), Hungary and Russia and Corporate Crews from local businesses also enjoyed a taste of high level racing, being slotted into separate heats between the championship races.

With the IDBF World Nations Championships in Sydney so close and yet so far away, it will be interesting to see what further levels the top of dragon boat racing can reach in 2007.

For full race results, go to the 2006 European Championships site at ec2006.dragonboat.cz.

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