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Foreign Students Get Onboard for Races
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A group of international students from Guangzhou's Zhongshan University founded a dragon-boat team to enter today's citywide annual dragon boat competition.

American MBA student Brian Denaro was infatuated by the Dragon Boat Race he first saw last year.

"Since then, I made a decision to involve myself in a real dragon boat competition," Denaro told China Daily.

Members of Lingnan Gatorade Multinational Dragon Boat Team prepare for the annual dragon boat competition held today in Guangzhou.

Last month, he proposed starting a team in the MBA School. It quickly attracted almost 30 students and 10 of them hail from foreign countries, including France, Japan, Thailand and the United States.

"Since a boat can hold only 22 people, we had to reject some students," he says.

The students rented a dragon boat from Guangzhou Water Sports Administration Center, hired an instructor to train them and practiced three to four times weekly.

"All of them are beginners, but they are very passionate about the sport," says their instructor Liu Guanghui.

They named their team the Lingnan Gatorade Multinational Dragon Boat Team.

Since May and June are Guangzhou's rainy season, weather often posed problems. "There is at least one shower storm every day," Denaro says. "We often keep practising in the storm, getting our whole bodies wet."

Chinese student Li Zhicheng says: "Sometimes the weather is hot and there is too much sun. Many of the students have got serious sunburns."

But the students have found the hazards to be well worth the rewards.

"It's very funny," says French student Aurelie Nghiem. "We are not only practising dragon-boat racing but are also developing our teamwork."

When the boat first crossed the 600-meter mark - a standard distance for competition's finish line - the instructor praised the group, saying they had done a good job. The students all cheered and applauded.

While they don't know if they would take home any awards after the race, they certainly believe they've already gotten rewards from the experience.

However, the students had to spend more than 10,000 yuan (US$1,300) to compete. Practice costs included boat rental and training, which cost 800 yuan (US$103) per session. They organized 15 practices before the competition.

"We have acquired some sponsorship from a soft drink company and are collecting donations on campus," says team organizer Li Yinghao. "And the students have raised part of the money by themselves."

No matter what, the students say that the joy of participating in the event and knowledge they've gained about the history of the festival is priceless.

(China Daily June 23, 2007)

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