by Lucy Beth Hedrick

“I like racing because of the thrill. When you line up on the starting line the adrenaline is insane.”

Just a few short years ago Ethan Jackson did not know the thrill of Dragon Boat racing. After two years of training in kayaking and participating in small, local races, Jackson joined a US national Dragon Boat team and competed in the World Championships.

Team USA, Jackson included, raced in Milan, Italy, this summer for the 2012 ICF World Dragon Boat Championship. With his team Jackson secured two bronze medals, one in the Senior Mixed 10-person race and the other in the Senior Men 20-person.

As a Truett-McConnell representative, Jackson won medals last year, too, when he competed in the Canoe/Kayak Collegiate Spring National Championships held at The Lake Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club in Gainesville, Ga., May 6-7. There, Jackson secured four bronze medals.

“When I first started paddling, I was kayaking and it was purely recreational. I was in it for the fun. I wasn’t planning on racing competitively at all,” said Jackson, a TMC junior and psychology major.

Jackson discovered Dragon Boat racing through the club that he paddled with, The Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club, which hosts the Atlanta Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival annually. Each race features a team of LCKC members. Although Ethan raced with LCKC at the festival each year, he focused his training on kayaking.

“I didn’t start racing competitively until about two years ago when I was introduced to Mike Blundetto, the head coach of Dragon Boat Team USA,” Jackson said.

Jackson and several other LCKC members auditioned for Blundetto and were invited to join Team USA. Jackson accepted this invitation and raced with the team in downtown Disney in Orlando and again in Toronto for the Club Crew World Championships.

“Making a US national team is a big deal in any sport and especially in paddling. At LCKC there is a big push to make a team. We are producing national team caliber athletes all the time,” Jackson said.

Progressing up through the ranks, Jackson began with LCKC’s development team, learning the basics of paddling. Developing increased speed and skills, Jackson made rank for the competitive team, which allowed him to train and race more often. Additional success and improvement put Jackson on the US national team roster, an unspoken initiation right that placed him on LCKC’s performance team, the highest and most involved group racing for the club.

Jackson’s commitment to his studies and a job search precluded the numerous hours of training per day required by LCKC’s performance team, so he has pulled back from competitive racing for a season.

Despite this decision, Jackson refuses to count paddling out of his future. “I plan to continue training. I have a few different schedules built to stay in shape for it,” Jackson said. “Once I graduate college, I plan to pick it back up and start racing again.”


Lucy Beth Hedrick is an English major and freelance journalist at Truett-McConnell College

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