Enter the dragon

As teams descend on Victoria this weekend for the annual dragonboat festival, one squad takes its first steps into the dragon’s den

  • Aug. 17, 2012 3:00 p.m.

Maximus Power dragonboat team members Suzette Aquisap

Parm Ollek’s arms and legs are burning.

Gripping her wooden paddle, she plunges it into the water alongside 19 other paddlers, their dragonboat knifing through the waterway.

Despite the pain, final preparations for the Canada Dry Victoria Dragonboat Festival are going well and Ollek feels fortunate to be on the water.

“It is totally fun. I am higher than a kite, I really am,” she said. “I am experiencing something totally out of my box.”

You wouldn’t know it, but the business systems co-ordinator for Maximus Canada had never done anything athletic in her life.

Ollek and most of her teammates spend their days at a desk – she doesn’t even remember the last time she felt like part of a team. That all changed a year ago after discovering dragonboat racing as a volunteer.

“I couldn’t believe what a wonderful event it was. The energy, it was so positive,” she said of last year’s festival.

“I absolutely loved it and I walked away that weekend and said, ‘I really like this. I want to do this.’”

Ollek decided to form her own boat, recruiting colleagues at work to form the newly minted Maximus Power, named after their company.

The team takes to the waters of the Inner Harbour this weekend (Aug. 17, 18 and 19) focused on performing inside and outside the boat – paddling in unison inside it, and raising funds for the B.C. Cancer Foundation outside it.

“My goal at the end of the day isn’t about winning and losing at all,” Ollek said. “It is a matter of being a part of something and giving back.”

Coach Paul Barton has been quietly impressed with the team.

Barton, a first-time coach, appreciates the commitment each paddler invested into the twice-weekly practices and looks forward to a strong performance come race day.

“They are raring to go,” Barton said. “It has been great.  I had no idea what to expect from them, but from the first minute it was eager happy faces. It has been an amazing experience.”

Despite less than eight weeks to train, the rookie boat placed second in its heat at the Gorge Fest Dragon Boat Regatta last weekend and hope to gel even more in time for this weekend.

“Dragonboating is the definition of teamwork. If you don’t interact as a team in the boat, there is a negative effect,” Barton said.

“Everyone feels great about contributing to someone other than themselves. This is hard. After every practice they are burnt out, but they are smiling. It is great.”

Ollek is smiling, despite the aching in her body. As captain of Maximus Power she is focused on the team, a team that spreads much farther than just the 20 people on the boat.

“My values are such that I want to give back to the community anyway I can,” she said.

“It is in my heart to do these things. It is what I believe in.”


Weekend schedule

Today (Aug. 17)

1 p.m. – Eye Dotting Ceremony, Ship Point

5-9 p.m. – Light of Courage Lantern Celebration, Ship Point

9 p.m. – Lighting of Lights of Courage, Ship Point

Saturday (Aug. 18)

8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. – Dragonboat races, Inner Harbour

8:30 a.m.-10 p.m. – All-day entertainment, kids activities, Ship Point

Sunday (Aug. 19)

8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. – Dragonboat races, Inner Harbour

Noon – Breast Cancer Survivors’ race and carnation toss, Inner Harbour

8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. – All-day entertainment, kids activities, Ship Point

For more information, please go online to victoriadragonboat.com

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