|The Philippine Dragon Boat team celebrates after winning the gold in the Premier 1000m (small boat) of the World Dragon Boat Championships in Tampa Bay, Florida. Photo by Dyan Castillejo, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) – The Philippine Dragon Boat team snatched its first gold medal in the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) 10th World Dragon Boat Championships in Tampa Bay, Florida.
The dragon boat team, who made it to the competition despite lack of funding, bested teams from Australia and Hungary by setting a record time of 4:57.13 in the Premier 1000-meter event (small boat).
“Hindi ito ang aming special event... Sa 200 kami malakas at sa 500,” said team captain Usman Anterola.
“Parang nangyari, pinagbigyan namin sila ng kaunti sa 1,000 pero nakuha pa rin namin [ang panalo],” he added.
In the preliminary round of the Premier 1000m, the Filipino paddlers finished first with a time of 4 minutes and 59 seconds against powerhouse teams like Hungary, Australia, Italy, and Trinidad and Tobago.
“Pinaghirapan naming mabuti para lalong lumayo ang lamang namin sa kanila,” said Filipino paddler Rico Padilla.
The Filipinos received praises even from their competitors.
"We are so honored to be competing with the Philippines. It's like having the World Cup of football with Brazil here," said a paddler from Trinidad and Tobago.
Even the IDBF president expressed admiration for the Filipino athletes.
"Your athletes are strong, the right size and shape for dragon boat racing, and they're very good at it," said IDBF President Mike Haslam.
The PDBF team, record holders in the Premier 200m and the Premier mixed 200m, are also set to compete in the 500m men’s and the 500m mixed event, small boat division.
The Filipino paddlers made it to the tournament with the help ofAsia Brewery Inc.’s Cobra Energy Drink and Philippine Airlines (PAL), which shouldered their ticket fares to Florida.
The team also expressed gratitude to the Filipino community who accommodated them in Florida.
“Masayang masaya kami kasi butas ng karayom ang dinaan namin bago kami nakapunta dito,” said team member Ramie Llano.
“Nagpapasalamat kami sa suporta na ibinibigay ng kapwa Pilipino natin pati ‘yung Filipino community dito. Napakalaki ng binigay na suporta nila sa amin pagdating sa pagkain at moral support,” he added. -- With a report from Dyan Castillejo, ABS-CBN News