Breast Cancer Survivors Head to Italy
NZ TEAMS of BREAST CANCER SURVIVORS HEAD TO
ITALY FOR INTERNATIONAL DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL
2018 INTERNATIONAL BREAST CANCER PADDLERS COMMISSION PATICIPATORY DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL .
Arno River – Firenze (Florence) Italy, July 6 – 8 2018
Getting through a breast cancer diagnosis, and fighting back from the treatment regime, to become a healthy ‘survivor’ is giving hundreds of women the confidence to take on the world as international athletes.
Over 100 women from 5 teams across New Zealand are packing their paddles and pink gear this week, to head to Italy to join almost 5000 of their counterparts in an International Dragon Boat Festival on the Arno River in Florence from July 6. It’s a unique event expected to ‘pink out’ the historic city of Florence for a week.
Most of them never dreamed of being international sportswomen, but their determination in beating their disease is certainly evident in their positive spirit on the water in their teams of 22 paddlers.
This Festival is held every four years under the auspices of the International Breast Cancer Paddler’s Commission. It’s an international participatory event hosted for Breast Cancer Survivor teams across the globe, who have taken up dragon boating as a positive activity in their post-operative rehabilitation. Both men and women survivors in 129 teams, from 17 countries, representing all continents, will gather for the Opening Ceremony parade of nations across the historic Ponte Vecchio on Friday July 6. This will be followed by a festival of races over the weekend of July 7 and 8 culminating in an emotional, mass flower ceremony on Sunday, as team members and their supporters toss flowers on the water in honour of all breast cancers survivors and those who have succumbed to the disease.
Flying to the event this week are sister teams from Wellington – CanSurvive; Christchurch - Abreast of Life; and Tauranga – Boobops. They will also meet up with nine paddlers from Auckland’s Busting with Life and one paddler from Blenheim’s Simply the Breast.
The Auckland and Blenheim women were invited to form half of the Pink Dragons team of Vienna. Their Captain, Svenja FrankeBruhn, was a former NZ resident and extended an invitation to kiwi paddlers, to help her round out a small newly formed mixed international team.
With an average age of 60 years old, these paddlers can perform just as strongly as their much younger competitors in the sport . Although the Florence event is purely participatory, as a celebration of sport and survival, the kiwi teams have a goal to be amongst the top ten teams in the world. At the 2014 event in Florida USA, CanSurvive of Wellington gained a 3rd place in the grand final, amongst 105 teams.
The fierce competition between all New Zealand breast cancer survivor teams, encourages them all to step up their training goals each year, and continue to paddle through the winter months to improve on strength and fitness.
As well as constant fundraising to cover the $90,000 each team needs for travel costs, the build up for CanSurvive of Wellington has involved 4 years of continuous training on Wellington harbour, and winning titles at the Australian Nationals in 2016 and Bali in 2017. They will travel to Italy as the holders of the 2018 Rowntree Trophy 500 metre title from New Zealand nationals earlier this year.
“All the ‘pink dragon’ survivor teams are going from strength to strength” says CanSurvive team Chairwoman Iona Elwood- Smith. “We are now matching the times of our younger club team counterparts on the water, and the survivor team’s division is fiercely competitive, with most of our NZ races ending in photo finishes. “ “This year’s Nationals were such exciting racing and a perfect build up for our bid to race at the IBCPC event in Florence.” she said.
Dragonboating is endorsed by the Breast Cancer Foundation NZ.
“It’s a wonderful sport for patients on the road to recovery after breast cancer,” says the chief executive of BCFNZ, Evangelia Henderson.
“Research shows that physical activity reduces the risk of breast cancer recurring. The support and camaraderie are also extremely beneficial,” she says.
“We wish the teams all the best in representing New Zealand at this exciting event!”