Two teams from Penang took part in the 2023 Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races.
They were Penang Forward Sports Club and Dragon Ventures.
Some 160 teams comprising a total of 4,000 athletes globally competed over the June 24 and 25 weekend at Hong Kong’s iconic Victoria Harbour.
The race is billed as the first international sports event since travel resumed in Hong Kong early this year,
Jointly organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board and the Hong Kong China Dragon Boat Association, the annual Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races has deeply ingrained itself within Hong Kong’s social calendar and cultural heritage, combining intense competition with age-old traditions, as well as amassing a global yet close-knit community of dragon boat athletes and enthusiasts. Home to modern dragon boat racing, Hong Kong spared no effort to keep the tradition alive on a grand scale that continues to set itself apart from its competitors. For the first time this year, organisers introduced the Hong Kong-Macao Trophy to promote ties between the two cities, as well as cash prizes to winning teams in five major races to encourage international participation.
With sports having returned in a major way post-pandemic, the excitement on the water and in the air at the world’s most historical dragon boat competition was especially palpable among the teams. Malaysian national pride took center stage, with Penang Forward Sports Club competing in the International Mixed Championship, while Dragon Ventures in the International Open Championship and International Mixed Championship races.
“We competed in the 2007 Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races. Therefore, returning to Hong Kong held great significance for our team, as it allowed us to reconnect with the rich cultural heritage of the event while showcasing our skills on an international stage,” said Lim Eng Wei, Team Manager of Penang Forward Sports Club.
Established in 1978 to promote sports development in the Penang region, Penang Forward Sports Club is a regular fixture in the dragon boat racing scene. Setting its sights on achieving peak performance and making its mark at the Hong Kong International Dragon Boat races as its major international outing for 2023, the team went through a rigorous training process that featured a comprehensive blend of physical conditioning, technical drills, and mental preparation.
“The Hong Kong races attract teams from all over the world, creating a highly competitive environment that pushes us to perform at our best. The racecourse itself is always challenging, but what stood out for us this year, in particular, was the highly enthusiastic support from spectators who finally got to experience it all over again after a four-year break, which added to the excitement and energy of the competition,” added Lim.
To Penang Forward Sports Club, Hong Kong is an ideal destination. “Not only does the combination of the thrilling race atmosphere, cultural significance, and picturesque backdrop of Hong Kong’s stunning cityscape elevate the dragon boat race to another level, it also provides a unique opportunity for us to create unforgettable memories and share them with our families and friends back in Malaysia.”
“As a team that embraces the motto, ‘Race hard, play hard’, we made sure we enjoyed our time in Hong Kong beyond the races. In fact, we extended our stay in Hong Kong to one week because there was just so much to do, such as appreciating arts and culture at K11 Musea, taking a ride on the Ngong Ping 360 cable car, exploring the great outdoors of Lantau Island, savouring the famous milk pudding dessert at Yee Shun Milk Company, as well as a fine dining experience at The Peninsula to name a few,” added Lim.
Meanwhile, Dragon Venture, who competed for the first time in the Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races, was moved by the vibrant atmosphere of the race and Hong Kong’s rich cultural heritage.
“We formed our group in 2018 and are relatively new to the dragon boat racing community. For us, this competition was about having a good time and building meaningful relationships with fellow dragon boat enthusiasts from all over the world, and we couldn’t think of a better place to get started than the birthplace of modern dragon boat racing itself, Hong Kong!” said Daric Thaw, Team Manager of Dragon Venture.
The camaraderie within the dragon boat racing community was strongly felt against the backdrop of Hong Kong as Asia’s world city where Eastern and Western cultures converge, according to the team. “The races were tough, and admittedly we needed to work towards continuously improving our stamina and strength going forward. However, we will always look back on our first experience at the Hong Kong races this year for motivation and inspiration. Of course, no trip to Hong Kong would be complete without a visit to Hong Kong Disneyland, which also turned out to be a wonderful team building exercise for us. We also satisfied our cravings for wan tan noodles and dim sum,” said Thaw.