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Pemberton dragon boaters ready for challenge in Vancouver

Junior Laoyam Eagles to defend five-year winning streak

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The Pemberton Eagles will send four crews this weekend to Vancouver’s Alcan Dragon Boat Festival, the largest festival of its kind in North America.

Two junior crews, a women’s crew and a mixed open crew will face stiff competition in their respective categories.

Close to 100,000 visitors will descend on Vancouver to watch as 180 teams from around the world compete for a place on the podium. The Laoyam Eagles, Pemberton’s top junior team, have historically done well in Vancouver. This year they will compete for their sixth straight title in the junior category.

Though the Eagles are known in the dragon boating world as the junior team to beat, defending their title will be no easy task, according to coach Dr. Hugh Fisher:

"It’s no shoe-in. The team is an excellent bunch, but they’re very young," said Fisher.

Many of the paddlers who were part of the junior team last year, a team that won a silver and a bronze medal at the 2003 World Championships in Poland, have graduated. This year the team is made up mostly of students from Grades 9 and 10, rather than 11 and 12. In addition, this year’s junior category is the largest the Vancouver festival has seen, with 22 teams competing.

The second junior team, the Falcons, have also done well in Vancouver in the past, placing as high as fourth.

Fisher says that the goal for the Eagles this year is to win, and for the Falcons to improve on their standing from past years.

The women’s crew will also face some tough competition, including a team from False Creek using the race as a selection event.

"The women have been quite successful up until now," said Fisher. "They should do well in Vancouver."

The adult mixed open team, known as the Bald Eagles, have "their work cut out for them," says Fisher. The open competition in Vancouver is known to be of a high level.

Pemberton’s open team used to consist mainly of parents of members of the junior team, but in recent years the open team has diversified.

The Laoyam Eagles will also be competing in the mixed open event.

This year the course and venue for the festival have moved east. The 500 metre course will now run from the Cambie Street Bridge to Science World. Most of the festivities will take place around Science World, Concord Pacific Place, and Creekside Park.

For more information about the festival, visit www.adbf.com

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