Pemberton's Scott McLagan came home with a bag full of silver—and a bit of gold—at the International Dragon Boat Federation World Championships in Pattaya, Thailand from Aug. 20 to 25.
Competing on the Senior C National dragon boat team, the False Creek Racing Canoe Club member helped the squad earn medals in the 200-metre, 500-m, 1,000-m and 2,000-m events.
While McLagan was happy with his results, he noted that Canada has typically found itself winning gold at that level in years past. However, a powerhouse American squad showed up and dominated.
"Canada has pretty much swept the golds at that event for the last two or three world championships. The Americans came in this year with a really strong [team]," he said. "Somebody must have found some funding because not only were they a really good team, a really big team and a really strong team, they toured North America as a group for the past month—something that we just couldn't fathom."
While the Yanks were the juggernaut this year, McLagan said the Canadians weren't far behind.
"They were definitely stiff competition, but we held them to it," he said. "We were right on their heels every heat, but they took most of the gold."
McLagan's gold medal came in the small boat 500-m race in which the Americans did not compete. Still, the Russians, Australians and Germans provided stiff competition.
With temperatures reaching 37 Celsius and humidity levels up to 100 per cent, the weather conditions did no favours for the Canuck squad, especially British Columbians like McLagan, who have trained in a milder summer.
"That, absolutely, was the biggest challenge," he said of the weather. "It was oppressive."
McLagan said the conditions were such that his clothes never fully dried, and he stayed hydrated using Gatorade and Nuun tablets.
"You might be uncomfortable, but in terms of performance, as long as you keep hydrated and keep drinking that stuff, it definitely works," he said. "You're uncomfortable, but you're functional."
McLagan said the race course, a man-made reservoir with a flat bottom, made it equal for all competitors. In comparison, the Concord Pacific International Dragon Boat Festival on Vancouver's False Creek—North America's largest dragon boat event—sometimes has competitors concerned over some shallow sections closer to the banks.
Among other course features were an automated starting line and a laser finish line.
"The course was very fair. That's always a concern," McLagan said. "They make the bottom completely flat so it's deemed to be fair in all lanes. The course was first-rate."
McLagan said overall, Canada was second in the medal table, trailing only host Thailand. He noted the U24 squad was a particular joy to watch.
"They were just exceptional. They were awesome to watch," said McLagan, adding the U24s won gold in the open class. "[They're] very strong young people, basically every one of them built like a walking fire hydrant."
Admittedly all business, McLagan didn't get much of a chance to enjoy being in Thailand away from the race course.
"We were up every day at 5 a.m., on the course by 7, raced all of our heats. You would basically come home, try to get cool and prepare for the next day," he said. "It's a competitive event and that's what it's for."