Team GB did well in all races - beating the only other European team in attendance in 3 out of 4 races; outperforming even their own expectations.

Physics postgraduate competes for Team GB

Postgraduate Lizzy Brock, currently studying for a PhD in the Electromagnetic Materials group, in the Physics department, has just returned from competing for Team GB at the World Dragon Boat Racing Championship in Tampa, Florida.

Team GB arrived in Tampa on the 29th July, and spent the first week acclimatising to the new surroundings, humid climate and continuing their demanding training schedule. The Championship itself was hosted on one of the waterways of Tampa Bay with 6 wide lanes for racing on an ocean teeming with life and consumed by the heat wave that engulfed the city. The teams paddled with wild dolphins and stingrays in continuous races with the exception of one or two thirty minute stops for thunder storms.

Team GB competed with Macau, Canada, Germany, China, Australia and the USA in races over 200m, 500m, 1000m and 2000m. As the event location was so expensive to attend only the very best teams actually committed to competing. Other countries attended in different crews and categories, but in Great Britain's league all the major competitors turned up. Team GB, a relatively novice crew, did well in all races– beating Germany (the only other European team in attendance) in 3 out of 4 races; outperforming even their own wildest expectations.

Lizzy’s experience with the sport of Dragon Boating starting by joining the local Exeter club, Exe-Calibre, last October. She is currently going into her third year studying for a PhD at Exeter in ‘The lateral confinement of microwave surface waves and sub-wavelength control of microwave surface waves across metamaterial surfaces’. This PhD, in the Electromagnetic Materials Group in the Physics department, is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Since joining Exe-Calibre in October, the club has allowed Lizzy to develop her paddling technique to a level where she could train and trial for GB. Having subsequently been selected for team GB, Lizzy took part in five weekend training sessions in London with the rest of the team and then completed her first ever international race at the championship in Tampa.

In Britain, Dragon Boating is a self funded sport so the athletes who take part, standing toe to toe with others who get paid for their sporting ability, do so at their own personal cost (for this championship that would have been very expensive). Lizzy was lucky enough to be sponsored by the University of Exeter High Performance Unit and says “the University has helped me with some sponsorship money, so for that I thank them very much and am very grateful”.

Lizzy reflects on the whole experience by saying that “The heartbreaks of the heats, with sometimes less than a second difference between qualifying times, and the elation of each event made the whole experience a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, not atypical when competing in international sport”.  However she hopes to continue to paddle at Exe-Calibre, as well as train at the University’s world class sporting facilities in order to compete again next year and she says "I hope my experience gets passed on and awareness of the sport is raised.”

Date: 26 August 2011