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Anete Smith is a proud member of the ‘Pink Dragons’ dragon boating team based in Browns Bay. A breast cancer survivor who, after her diagnosis and treatment, wanted to do something positive with her life. She stopped drinking alcohol, changed her diet and joined the dragon boating team. Anete was awarded Team Member of the Year last year. The team have won numerous medals over the years she has been involved, including one very precious gold for the 2km race in 2012. Anete is the recruitment officer for the team. She say it’s always a challenge to find at least 22 women who are breast cancer survivors, reasonably fit and active, and who want to paddle a dragon boat but says they manage it! Her aim is always to have enough paddlers to fill the boat. We had a chat to Anete about her team.
Courtney Bennett: Your dragon boating team is celebrating it’s 10 year anniversary, how did the team form?
Anete Smith: My team 'Pink Dragons' formed out of the first Auckland breast cancer dragon boat team, 'Busting with life'. Too many paddlers meant we could set up a new team and so the 'Pinkies' began. We are still close to 'Busting' but, on race day, they are our competition and we both do all we can to win!
CB: Have you always been into sport?
AS: No, definitely not. I did the usual school sport but never enjoyed it. Whilst being a Venture Scout in the U, I did kayaking and loved everything about it. I love being on the water and the speed you can get to. Recently my partner and I kayaked the Whanganui river for five days. That was brilliant.
CB: What skill is needed for dragon boating?
AS: No skill needed at all - just energy and enthusiasm (and perhaps a bit of coordination) We have a fantastic coach, Sooupu Perese, and he teaches everyone what to do. Newbies get great training from him. Even us veterans need reminding now and again.
CB: What sort of events do you compete at?
AS: We compete at local and regional regattas all through the season; there is usually one a month. We compete against mixed teams, women's teams and breast cancer survivors' teams. It keeps us performing well and hones our competitive edge. We also have fun regattas - the next one is on Milford Beach on the 12th December - where we usually get very wet.
CB: Tell readers about the work you do for hospice…
AS: I am the Manager of the Milford Hospice Shop on Shakespeare Road. We have just celebrated our first year of trading with a 'Pink Party' where we all wore pink to match our new branding. I love my job. It is so varied, each day is different. We get such great support from the local area with fantastic donations and wonderful volunteers. My background is visual merchandising so I really enjoy making the shop look as beautiful as possible - all for a great cause, Hospice North Shore.
CB: If you had to play another sport, what would it be and why?
AS: If I had to, I think I would like something involving kayaks. Maybe racing or slalom. I like the idea of my strength providing the power to speed through the water. But I would rather stick to dragon boating if you don't mind!
CB: Does the team have an annual event that you guys look forward to?
AS: We always look forward to our regionals and nationals. Our regionals are held at Lake Pupuke and we get to race so many types of teams. Nationals are being held at Ashburton this year and that is the pinnacle of the season. The competition is fierce between the Breast Cancer teams, but we hope to come back with some medals.
CB: Aside from winning events, does your team have any other goals?
AS: Our main goal is provide inspiration to other women who have had breast cancer. To be a visible display that proves that there can be life after what is always a devastating diagnosis.
CB: You’re recruiting for new members for the team, how do local people get involved?
AS: If you have had breast cancer, can swim 50 metres, are reasonably fit and are keen to join, call me (details at the end of article). We practice on Tuesday and Thursday nights and also on Sunday mornings after Auckland Anniversary weekend.
CB: What’s the best part about being part of the Pink Dragons?
AS: There are so many things I love about it: The camaraderie of the team, the fact that we all have had a shared experience that unites us but doesn't define us. I also love the fact that I get to keep fit without having to go to a boring exercise class.
CB: In 10 years time, I’ll be…
AS: Stronger, fitter and still dragon boating but with more gold medals hanging on my wall.
Channel Magazine: Issuu 61 December 2015 January 2016