Katie Graumann, a Lake Nona local, recently competed at this year’s European Championship for Dragon Boating, an intense paddling sport where paddlers work in unison to propel the boat forward from a standing start, the aim being to reach the finish line in the fastest time. Graumann won six gold and two silver medals with her team but credits the true victory to the feeling of “optimal synergy of all individual athletes in the boat” between all the members of the team. In the past, Graumann has also competed in Italy, Canada and Hungary and taken home 35 international medals.
“Each athlete depends on the other to give it their best. Only then, with a lot of discipline, team spirit, and trust in each other, medal placing is possible,” said Graumann. She was also able to participate in the Athletes Oath at the European Championship for Dragon Boating. This portion of the event is in the name of all competitors during the opening ceremony of the championship. “I had never dreamed of being selected for this, but it filled me with pride to play an active role in the opening ceremony and to represent all participating athletes,” said Graumann.
Graumann began training for watersports at a very early age. A native of Germany, Graumann’s father was a professional coach for the local canoe sprint club in their area and got Graumann involved in the canoe sprint as early as he could. Soon after, Graumann fell in love with Dragon Boat Racing and has been part of the German National Team for eight consecutive years. To remain on the team, a new application is required each year with an official invitation and nomination potentially being issued after a series of tests.
Dragon Boat Racing began in China more than 2,000 years ago, originating from superstitious beliefs that the boat racing would ensure prosperous and bountiful crops. Dragon Boat celebrations were conducted during the summer solstice when natural disasters and ailments like disease were in full force against the population. Accordingly, dragon boating remains representative of humankind’s struggle against nature and the fight against dangerous enemies. Some of the original rituals from ancient Dragon Boat Racing are still practiced at modern events, like the “Awakening of the Dragon,” by dotting the eyes of the dragon’s head on each boat. This ceremony is conducted to “cleanse and bless” the area of competition, the competitors, and their boats. It also gives the boats and their crew the strength of the Dragon and the blessing of the Goddess of the Sea.
Graumann credits the atmosphere of the competitions as being one of the best parts about competing at Dragon Boating events. “The atmosphere at an international competition that brings together athletes from all around the world, top athletes with different backgrounds and cultures, is so exciting. All come together for something they have in common: the love of the same sport,” said Graumann.
Next season, Graumann has her heart set on being able to compete at the World Nations Championships in Thailand. Before she is able to participate, she has to apply and receive an invitation and nomination for the 2019 National Team. Until then, she is continuing to work hard and demonstrate an intense passion for the sport she loves.
“The discipline you need. The focus. The timing. The teamwork. The strength. The speed. The sound and power of the start. Then crossing the finish line in pure exhaustion – incredible!” said Graumann.