LONE STAR DRAGONS
By Cristine Kao
The first team from Texas to ever compete at the US Dragon Boat Federation Nationals just did the unexpected — it won its first ever Division Championship to earn a berth on the world stage in 2024.
Athletes and spectators witnessed something special this past weekend at US Nationals when the Texas-based Lone Star Dragons beat all the odds to become the champion and win the opportunity to represent Texas at Club Crew World Championship in Ravenna, Italy in 2024.
Dragon boat, dubbed as the ultimate team sport, is a 22- or 12-person canoe, with competitions in multiple distances. US Nationals, held every two years, happened July 21-23 in the heat and humidity of Sarasota, Fla. The team, composed of athletes from Dallas, Austin and Houston, competed together for the first time ever. “While many of us have competed individually in the past, this was our first-time training together as a club,” said Jackson Lau, the head coach of Lone Star Dragons. “We really didn’t know how we stack up against the best in the country. I think everyone loves the unexpected.” He added, “Since no one had seen this crew before, the announcers kept calling us the dark horse.”
The team had its first official training session barely one year ago. Each practice usually lasts four hours in the Texas heat. The team also had strict strength testing to ensure everyone was ready for the tough competition. Many of the practices and tests were held at White Rock Lake and hosted by Dallas United Crew.
“We were really lucky to have a home like DUC to be able to provide the best training facility,” said Cristine Kao, head coach of the DUC Delite Dragon boat program.
“Several of the Delite athletes worked hard to make the roster.”
For many, this team has been years in the planning as Texas has had a long history of paddling competition. Members of the Austin Dragon boat club, Houston Heat and FYP Island Warriors are also part of the Lone Star Dragons. “Dragon boat is the ultimate team sport, and it’s been great collaborating with all the coaches to make this happen,” added Jeff Gee of the Houston Heat. “Creating this program is something I’ve wanted to do for many years, and it’s amazing to see us perform so well the first time at Nationals.”
“Now they [the world rowing community] will know what Texas is made of internationally!” Lau declared. “We look forward to showing off our Texas grit and building this program.”