Stratford Junior Dragon Boat Team brings home World Championship trophy

After 15 hot and humid days in Thailand, The Canadian Junior Dragon Boat team is home at last, along with their seven medals and a world championship trophy. After beating out their closest competition, the USA team at the end of the final day, the Canadian Junior Team came home ready to celebrate a win they weren’t sure they were going to get, “We didn't think we'd win the junior cup until it was actually announced. The final day at the closing ceremony,” says Aralyn Smith, junior dragon boat competitor.

The International Dragonboat Federation (IDBF) World Championship of Dragon Boat Racing is in its 16th year of racing at different locations across the world. The IDBF is an international non-governmental, non-profit world organization for dragon boating and other paddle sport activities.

With the object of encouraging the development of the sport of Dragon Boat Racing and maintaining its Asian culture and tradition, the Championship competition aims to strengthen the bonds of friendship and unite those who practice dragon boat racing across the world.

The Canadian junior team, consisting of four local teens, Emma Gordon, Smith, Alexandra Stephens and Mia Kaufman, has been consistently training with Ken Gene, mentor and coach, for a full year, rounding up to the competition.

This year’s competition was spread over more than a week, and Kaufman noted, “Every day is a different distance, and there are medals with each competition.”

The team did have to overcome one optical throughout the entirety of the event: the heat. On the first day, the team noted they had suffered from heat stroke, but by the second day, they all came together to help combat the heat with other Canadian teams’ support, “When we finished a race, the other teams rushed over with ice buckets, cooling towels and Gatorade to help,” noted Smith, “After a heatstroke scare the first day, we really came together and helped each other out.”

The young women will be gearing up for the next championship tournament coming to Germany in 2025, “Having the experience of going to Thailand really gets me geared up for the next time, too. It’s so motivating knowing what’s to come.”

Next year, two of the competitors from this year’s junior teams will move onto the ladies’ division, opening up two spots for the junior team. The current team notes that anyone wanting to try out should give it a go, “Just try it; it’s an amazing feeling, and anyone can do it.”

Heading off to Trent University in Peterborough this fall, team captain Mia Kaufman will take nursing and hopes to continue her studies and pursue med school while still competing in dragon boat racing. She told the Stratford Times, “I'm hoping to set up a dragon boat team at Trent University and continue there.”

Gene congratulated the junior team for their dedication and hard work, saying, “Thank you for helping bring the junior cup to Canada. This is quite an accomplishment. We have World Championship Athletes right here in Stratford, and you worked your butts off for it, and we all got to watch you do it. Well done!”

If you’re interested in dragon boat racing, please reach out to Ken Gene at and he would be happy to direct you.

Amanda Modaragamage, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Stratford Times