A lot of people including our foreign friends had been asking why Filipinos had emerged as among the strongest paddlers in the world. Due to our country's past accomplishments (including the world record in 200m Men's Open, Standard Boat), we have gained the respect and admiration of our fellow sportsmen in the international sports arena.
As Mike Haslam, the IDBF President said in August 2011: "The World Dragon Boat Championships is like the World Cup in Football without Team Brazil".
Having eight veterans of the World Championships in our crew, we have the edge over all other local club teams. Of course, our main asset is the high level of military discipline that we strongly adhere in our daily lives. Using the same discipline that we learned as the 'boys from the barracks', we built the team based on the concepts of unit integrity, unity of command and positive mental attitude.
To reach this level of performance, our athletes paddle for 2-3 hours each day, spend another 2-3 hours running and working out in the gym.
The soldiers' positive attitude towards the sport is exemplary. With or without extra food provisions, they religiously follow the training schedule to earn the slot during competitions. Ayaw nilang maging pasahero lamang. Since there are 28 athletes in our club, we have to design a strict selection process that is transparent. Matira ang matibay at positibo ang pag-iisip!
Also, everyone knows each other including their respective family members, making them the best of friends. Some are neighbors, relatives and kumpares. Moreover, they know each other's strengths and weaknesses. They complement each other in the boat.
It is therefore common sense that when our soldiers are mixed with 'outsiders' to form another team, there will always be problems that would lead to failures. Does it make sense?
Despite all odds, we made it to Davao City for the first ever dragon boat competition that was scheduled from May 2-3, 2014.
We were excited to see action and showcase our team as the undisputed king of the Men's events of this rapidly growing sport, having dominated the national regatta in the past 3 years.
To attain our goal of capturing all three gold medals that are at stake in Men's events, the team spent several weeks harnessing its paddling skills, improving both speed and synchronization.
Learning that the strong teams from Camsur wouldn't make it to Davao, we were saddened. The Bicolano fishermen-paddlers had given us a stiff competition last year. They had proven that they can beat us when we relax too much. We sometimes ignored the teachings Suntzu.
Anyway, the newly formed Philippine Air Force Dragon Boat Team has gradually risen to challenge our team. They are in high spirits after outracing the Philippine Coast Guard team during the most recent competition in Manila. However, our morale and our level of competitiveness is a notch higher due to our extensive preparation and 'combat experience'.
Our bonus was that almost everyone agreed that the Army is the team to beat in the Men's events. There was a joke among our friends from competing teams that 'only a miracle' can lead to the defeat of Team Army.
Despite of that psychological edge, I always required the team to do its best and beat their own records regardless who our opponents are.
In the 2,000m event, there were two 'heats' (releases). The rule was that the team with the fastest time record wins the race.
Our main competitor, Team Air Force, was part of the first heat. We closely monitored their time. In our unofficial clock record, it took them 8 mins, 2 secs to clear the finish line. The official time record according to the time keeper was 7 mins, 5 secs.
In the second heat, we logged 8 mins as our unofficial time record. The time keeper's official time was 7 mins 53 secs. We 'lost' to Team PAF by 48 seconds or approximately 300m distance difference!
We filed an official protest because we believed there was something wrong about the time records. Who knows there was a possible human error in recording of the time?
We just used common sense in our computations such as follows:
- The best time for the Premiere Open Standard, 2,000m event during the World Championships is 7:48.920 as shown. If Team Air Force's best time in 200m is 50.86 secs (equivalent to 508.6 secs in 2,000m), then it is not statistically possible that it can finish 425 secs (7.05secs) in 2000m!
The table above shows the official result of the Grand Finals of the 2,000m Premiere Open event during the World Championships in 2013.
- If indeed, the team finished the 2,000m at 7mins, 5secs (425secs), then their average time every 200m is 42.5secs. This is not possible because the boat has to take a turn every lap, therefore, it has to slow down. Common sense also dictates that you can log 42-45 secs only if you paddle in the sprints like the 200 m event.
Well, our protest was not considered because the officials strongly believed that the Timekeeper's record was correct. Sadly, there was no video to disprove our claim about the perceived error. As a result, our country has logged perhaps one of the world's fastest record (if not the fastest time) in 2,000m event, Standard Boat. Miracle? Maybe. What you think?
We may be frustrated but we accepted the result like real sportsmen. No more blame game. Our lesson? Record a video in events such as the 2,000m.
Because of our loss, our team became more motivated to get even in the last two events (200m and 400m).
We tried our best to surpass our fastest record time (41.27secs) logged in 200m Standard Boat during the race in Bohol a year ago.
When it was time to prove our worth in the sprints, the team was determined to capture the gold.
Unlike in the 2,000m event, the winner is obvious this time. We logged 42.51 secs against Team Air Force's 50.86 secs.
The PDBF Elite Team, composed of mixed civilians and military personnel, clocked 45.660 seconds during the World Championships in 2013.
Vindicated after our loss in the 2,000m event, we became more motivated to pursue our dream of conquering the World Championships come September 2014.