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Cape Breastoners dipping their paddles in Florida waters


SYDNEY — The Cape Breastoners have a routine before they hit the water for a nightly practice.

The dragon boat team of local breast cancer survivors lines up on shore, and with Celtic music blaring, the women do a synchronized mix of both dance moves and aerobics to get warmed up for their session on the water. The chicken dance even makes an appearance.

Then it’s off to the small dock where their long, dragon-headed chariot awaits. They board a few at a time, cracking jokes here and there and sharing a laugh or two. Once everyone is settled, they push off, paddles are up, and they’re off rowing in near-perfect harmony. It doesn’t take long for the crew to make it a few hundred metres away.

But their practice has had extra meaning as of late. The team is preparing to compete at the International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission Festival in Sarasota, Fla., Oct. 24-25. The 25-member team will join over 100 other dragon boat clubs at the event. That’s 2,500 breast cancer survivors converging at one venue.

Cape Breastoners team captain Sue MacDonald of Sydney River said members of the team attended the international festival in Peterborough, Ont., in 2010 and were so impressed they decided to plan for the Florida trip this year. The team has been training and fundraising for the Florida trip for the past two years.

“Some are very professional, some are just like us, a group of breast cancer survivors that come out for friendship, camaraderie and exercise, but the competition will be fierce,” said MacDonald, who proudly states she’s been cancer free for eight years, and credits dragon boating as playing a role in her health.

“But we come to understand that there are no winners. Everyone’s a winner just for attending and medals won’t be given for placement. Everybody will get a medal. We’re all going to be champions in Sarasota.”

Coach Sue Leblanc of Bras d’Or and assistant coach Jeannie Keeping of Hillside Boularderie have been on the water with the Cape Breastoners crew in both Sydney harbour and Mira. The paddlers had an exercise program to follow this winter, and they’ve been practicing between two to three times per week since May.

“It’s been a priority of ours to be in the best shape possible and I think we achieved that at this point,” said Leblanc, diagnosed in 1997. “I think we’re ready for the race.”

The races in Florida will be different than the usual lengths the team tackles. They regularly take part in 200-metre races, but the international event will feature 500-metre races. Add on another 400 metres just to get to the start line, and each race has close to a kilometer in total paddling involved.

Keeping said the team members have been motivated in their preparation.

“I think each of us is an inspiration to each other. We support each other,” said Keeping, diagnosed in 2000. “It’s for fitness and for fun, that’s why we’re here, and to show that there’s life after breast cancer.”

For a video of the team, click here.

 

sports@cbpost.com

On Twitter: @cbpost_sports

 

The dragon boat team of local breast cancer survivors lines up on shore, and with Celtic music blaring, the women do a synchronized mix of both dance moves and aerobics to get warmed up for their session on the water. The chicken dance even makes an appearance.

Then it’s off to the small dock where their long, dragon-headed chariot awaits. They board a few at a time, cracking jokes here and there and sharing a laugh or two. Once everyone is settled, they push off, paddles are up, and they’re off rowing in near-perfect harmony. It doesn’t take long for the crew to make it a few hundred metres away.

But their practice has had extra meaning as of late. The team is preparing to compete at the International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission Festival in Sarasota, Fla., Oct. 24-25. The 25-member team will join over 100 other dragon boat clubs at the event. That’s 2,500 breast cancer survivors converging at one venue.

Cape Breastoners team captain Sue MacDonald of Sydney River said members of the team attended the international festival in Peterborough, Ont., in 2010 and were so impressed they decided to plan for the Florida trip this year. The team has been training and fundraising for the Florida trip for the past two years.

“Some are very professional, some are just like us, a group of breast cancer survivors that come out for friendship, camaraderie and exercise, but the competition will be fierce,” said MacDonald, who proudly states she’s been cancer free for eight years, and credits dragon boating as playing a role in her health.

“But we come to understand that there are no winners. Everyone’s a winner just for attending and medals won’t be given for placement. Everybody will get a medal. We’re all going to be champions in Sarasota.”

Coach Sue Leblanc of Bras d’Or and assistant coach Jeannie Keeping of Hillside Boularderie have been on the water with the Cape Breastoners crew in both Sydney harbour and Mira. The paddlers had an exercise program to follow this winter, and they’ve been practicing between two to three times per week since May.

“It’s been a priority of ours to be in the best shape possible and I think we achieved that at this point,” said Leblanc, diagnosed in 1997. “I think we’re ready for the race.”

The races in Florida will be different than the usual lengths the team tackles. They regularly take part in 200-metre races, but the international event will feature 500-metre races. Add on another 400 metres just to get to the start line, and each race has close to a kilometer in total paddling involved.

Keeping said the team members have been motivated in their preparation.

“I think each of us is an inspiration to each other. We support each other,” said Keeping, diagnosed in 2000. “It’s for fitness and for fun, that’s why we’re here, and to show that there’s life after breast cancer.”

For a video of the team, click here.

 

sports@cbpost.com

On Twitter: @cbpost_sports

 

The Cape Breastoners dragon boat team of local breast cancer survivors will compete at the International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission Festival in Sarasota, Fla., Oct. 24-25. In the front row from left are Jeannie Keeping, Carol MacLeod, Jean Knott, Margie MacVicar, Sherry MacNeil, Sheila Cooke, Murdell MacNeil, Judy Denny, Cathy Lawrence, Diane Boutillier, Peggy MacLellan and AnnMarie Curry. In the middle row from left are Rose Fraser, Nancy Hanrahan, Carol Sheriff, Mary-Anne Campbell and Brenda LeLoup. In the third row from left are Sue MacDonald, Sue LeBlanc, Pam Langille, Janet Keough and Velvet Cousins. Missing are Millie Bates-Harpell, Fran Smith and Allison Tell.

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