Hungarian Dragon Boat Year in Review 2006

02 December 2006

Third annual Gyor Dragon Boat Festival.
The 2006 Hungarian dragon boat calendar was busier and more exciting than ever. The season kicked off with the Dragon Friends, a 12k friendly competition on the Danube in the early spring. Shortly thereafter Gyor, the capital of Hungarian dragon boating, was the scene of the third annual Gyor Dragon Boat Festival with 67 teams attending the two day event.
This was also notable as it was the first time a competition was held for junior dragon boat teams in Hungary.

The next event on the calendar saw the Hungarians travel to Italy to participate in the Vogalonga, the Long Row, a 30k event for rowed - or paddled - boats originating in Venice. Originally begun as a gondola event in protest against the wakes of the growing number of motorized craft plying Venice’s canals, it was an unforgettable paddle among the elegant gondolas and hundreds of other water craft. This was followed by another long distance regatta, this time on Hungary’s own Lake Balaton, where four dragon boats competed in the 22k race alongside 140 other boats.

Thirty teams showed up for the Tolna Festival, the first dragon boat festival held in the south of the country in July and August. With all of Hungary’s dragon boat clubs also present at the event, it was a good chance for both new and experienced competitive teams to measure their strength and for local recreational teams to enjoy the fun, camaraderie and excitement of dragon boat racing.

The Hungarians used the second half of the season to focus on preparing for the European Championships in Prague. It proved to be a good strategy, with medals for the premier mixed and senior teams in all distances (including two golds for the seniors). The championships also proved that junior dragon boating is growing ever more popular and stronger in Hungary. There was both an open and a mixed junior crew at Prague. Both junior crews were successful with a second place finish in the mixed 200 and bronze medals in the 200m and 500m open races.

Enthusiasm for the sport is high at all levels in Hungary. The Raba dragons didn’t want to be left out of the fun in Prague, so they also came along to compete in the open club crew festival races. All in all, the 2006 EC was the most productive international event for the Hungarians yet, with more wins in more classes than ever before.

Traditionally, the Hungarian National Championships take place in Budapest on the second week of September. 2006 marked the fourth year of the competition and was the first year with both senior and junior teams joining the premier teams. The race distances run that weekend were 200 and 2000 meters. Römi KKSK were the big winners, with five gold medals (they represented Hungary in Prague where they won one gold and two silver medals).

HDBF President Laszlo Sziklenka helms at Szekesfehervar.
The Hungarian racing season closed off with the second dragon boat festival taking place in Szekesfehervar. The two day event saw 46 teams on the starting line, including a number of new competitive and festival teams. According to Hungarian Dragon Boat Federation President Laszlo Sziklenka, "this is a great showing, which promises to make the dragon boat racing field even more competitive as the years go on."

Sziklenka also says that "more than 50 percent of dragon boat paddlers in Hungary are natural born dragon boat paddlers, not just part-time canoe paddlers," and more and more of the fun and corporate teams are training regularly and achieving better results than some of the canoe paddler teams. Together with the increase in youth participating in the sport, it looks like Hungary will be a force to be reckoned with on the international dragon boating scene.

Adapted from a report submitted by Laszlo Sziklenka with photos by Zsanett Sziklenka


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