Dragon Boats: When the Team Becomes Your Second Family

Dragon Boats: When the Team Becomes Your Second Family

Although you might get the impression you are watching two student classes on the banks of the Jizera river, you would be misled. The green-black colour of their jerseys recognizable from a fair distance give away the fact that they are here to represent the ŠKODA team in an activity where unity is the most valuable thing.

29. 4. 2019 Škoda World

Olena Hryniak, an editor and at the same time the team leader of the dragon boats called ‘The Green Dragons’, greets us: “Let’s go, the training is about to start.” The history of this two-thousand-year-old dragon ship tradition originally comes from south China. The sport was rediscovered in Hong Kong in 1976 and its popularity quickly spread to Europe. In Wolfsburg, Germany, major races take place every year in September where Volkswagen crews compete - and two ŠKODA teams with them. The already mentioned ‘Green Dragons’, which are formed mainly by the board of directors’ assistants, compete mainly in the FUN-Sport category.


The more experienced ŠKODA crew scores in the Sport category. The rowers participate in various key races not only in the Czech Republic but abroad as well. Although the season starts in the spring, the crews have to prepare themselves throughout the whole year either individually or during circuit trainings.   

Watching the team’s training on the Jizera river in Mladá Boleslav, just a glance is enough to realize how united the team needs to be. While you need just eleven men to form a football team you need twenty two well coordinated rowers for dragon boats. Seated in two rows, they all follow the drum rhythm of a drummer who sits closest to the bow while the coxswain is next to the stern. Rowers usually row only one side of the boat, however, some are skilled enough to row either side. The rest needs to exercise in a way this disharmony is reduced. The boats are not decorated for trainings, but for races dragon heads are added on the tip of the boat to remind of battles from the past times.


Veronika Kuntošová
Leader of the ŠKODA Team

On the other side of the river, the white-blue building of the ŠKODA Development and Technical Center is located. Apart from many technical innovations even the idea of forming the first rowing team came from here fifteen years ago.

“I do this sport mainly because of the wonderful people in it. Also because I find water sports very romantic,” says Veronika Kuntošová, the captain of the ŠKODA Team. During her free time she enjoys number of other sports, such as cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, in-line skating, cycling, squash and badminton.


Olena Hryniak
Leader of The Green Dragons Team

Olena Hryniak, the captain of the other team, has never done any sport professionally, but it is a tradition that the Green Dragons’ captain is always an assistant to a member of the board of directors for finance so it was decided. “I took it as a challenge I had to face,” she laughs. She certainly takes her role seriously and her efforts have borne fruit already after successful races in Nymburk and Dresden. So far her biggest achievement would be placing 2nd in assistant races in Wolfsburg.

Trainings take place every Monday and Wednesday during the season. The first team to show up at the Jizera river is the ŠKODA team of Veronika Kuntošová followed by The Green Dragon members an hour later. To make it fair, the first team picks up the boat before the training while the other team stores it afterwards.


What might be interesting is the fact that both men and women are represented in both teams. Mixed crews can be advantageous as women who have strength but weigh less than men can sit in the front - the lighter the bow, the faster the boat goes. The speed and dynamics of the boat are surprising. After the start, there are five long strokes followed by ten short ones until the boat reaches desired speed. The drummer needs to hold tight in order not to fall overboard as the boat can go even 20 kph.

Olena Hryniak explains that rowers sitting closest to the bow just behind the drummer are the most experienced ones. The drummer sets the pace for the rest of the crew based on their tempo. It is also important to ‘kick’ the boat which is how they call a countermovement to push the boat a bit forward.


Christian von Albrecht
Member of The Green Dragons Team

Because The Green Dragons team members are of different nationalities they need to communicate both in Czech and English. Besides the Czech members there are also Slovaks, Belarusians, Poles and also two new members from Germany. “When I came to Mladá Boleslav I wanted to meet my colleagues even outside of work to get to know them better. At that time I knew there was a dragon boat team in Wolfsburg, so I asked if they do something similar here as well. Then a colleague from my department Petr Vilimek invited me to a training,” recalls Christian von Albrecht who moved to Mladá Boleslav from Frankfurt am Main. ‘I like it very much. For me it's a great way to relax and I also get to know lots of new people,‘ laughs Christian, who has also brought his fellow countryman Nico Ihnen to the team.


Nico Ihnen
Member of The Green Dragons Team

“Christian wouldn’t stop speaking about the dragon boats and I was missing a team sport at that time,” Nico Ihnen explains. He says that although he is able to say just a few words in Czech he is having a good time with his crew. They make him feel at home. His waterman skills can come in handy as he is an experienced kayaker that even used to participate in kayak races in East Frisia where he comes from.


“I want to give it a try and I’ll see after the season is finished if dragon boats become my favourite sport,” says Nico, who enjoys the fact the he can sport and improve his Czech skills at the same time. “I can only recommend dragon boats to anyone coming to Mladá Boleslav. It is so great that ŠKODA gives people such an opportunity.”

Dragon boats might not be the kind of sport we see on TV every day, but watching a group of people who share the same goal and passion makes you ask yourself if something similar isn’t missing in your life. Dragon boats prove that acting as one is what counts. Don’t you think?