Two locals attend world dragon boat championships

Anne Vander Laan and Connie Thompson of Abbotsford were part of the Titanium crew based in Fort Langley

Two Abbotsford women were recently among a dragon boat team that competed in the world championships in Ravenna, Italy.

Anne Vander Laan (left) and Connie Thompson (below) are members of the Titanium crew, based out of the Fort Langley Canoe Club (FLCC).

The crew was among three FLCC dragon boat teams that qualified for the worlds after competing in the nationals in August 2013 in Victoria, where Titanium earned a bronze medal.

At the world championships in Italy from Sept. 3 to 7, Titanium competed in seven races in the Senior C Women division, which included seven American and Canadian teams.

They placed third, fourth and fifth in the various races.

Thompson joined the dragon boat team during her remaining six months of her career as a United Church minister before her retirement.

She said she led a fairly sedentary lifestyle before joining the crew, but the coaching standards and the expectations of the team quickly shaped her into a “new understanding” of herself as an athlete.

“I am proud of my new image as a physically fit senior. I weigh 45 pounds less and I feel better physically than I have felt in years,” she said.

Thompson recruited Vander Laan to join Titanium. Vander Laan had done several voyageur canoe trips with the FLCC and met Thompson on one of those adventures.

Vander Laan works at Abbotsford Christian School and belongs to the Valley Festival Singers.

She said it has been an “awesome experience” paddling with the 20 women  ages 60 and older on the Titanium team. Competing at the worlds with dragon boaters from 27 countries has been a highlight.

“I swapped jerseys with someone from Israel’s team, which was composed of Christians, Jews and Muslims with one thing in common – working together as a team,” Vander Laan said.

The dragon boat team plans to compete in Welland, Ont. in June 2015 to try to qualify for the world championship in Australia in 2016.

For more information, visit fortlangleycanoeclub.ca.