Abbotsford paddlers win silver in Australia

Six local competitors on winning team based in Fort Langley

Titanium team members from Abbotsford Helen Leusink

Titanium team members from Abbotsford Helen Leusink

A distinct Abbotsford flavour helped the Fort Langley Canoe Club’s Titanium team succeed in the land down under.

The senior C women’s dragon boat team, made up of paddlers aged 60 and up, competed at the Club Crew World Championships in Adelaide, Australia and took home a trio of medals in their division.

Titanium earned silver medals in both the 500 metre and 200 m, as well as a bronze in the 2,000 m. Abbotsford members of the team include: Anne Vander Laan, Helen Leusink, Connie Thompson, Karen Baillie, Ingrid Rennie and Kathy Heidebrecht.

The competition hosted 2,500 competitors from over 60 teams and more than 16 countries. Titanium competed in seven races in total, and team members said a lot of the club’s success is due to the training and coaching.

“Practice, practice, practice all through the winter,” said Leusink, who said the team keeps busy with at least three sessions on the water a week in Fort Langley and Vancouver. “We also have excellent coaching. I would credit [coach] Ben [Lee] for a lot of our success.”

The club was formed in 2012 as a response to the International Dragon Boat Federation creating the competitive category for paddlers aged 60 and up. Thompson, a competitive dragon boat athlete for nearly a decade was the first Abbotsford resident to join the team, with the other five joining up in the past few years.

“It’s great for fitness and there’s a lot of camaraderie amongst a great bunch of ladies,” Thompson said of the team. “And for a lot of us it’s the competition, we love the competition against the other teams.”

Titanium has earned a number of big wins in its history, including gold at the BC Senior Games and the Rio Tinto Alcan Regatta in 2015. The team also earned bronze at the National Club Crew Championships in 2013 and 2015.

The Australian event kicks off a busy summer for the team, with events in Vancouver, Nanaimo, Victoria and Penticton as some of the many competitive stops.

Team members pointed out that every Sunday in Fort Langley are drop-in sessions for those interested in the sport, and said the future could bring a recreational team and a men’s team to the fold.

For more details on the team, visit