Kota Kinabalu - Brunei Darussalam`s preparation for this year`s Sea Games in the boat race event was given a boost when they emerged champions in the 22nd Sabah Dragon Boat Race 2007 at Likas Bay near here Sunday.
Made up of a team of rowers assembled only a year ago for this year`s Sea Games in Korat, Thailand, the Bruneians dominated the main title final, the Sabah Head of State Trophy, leaving behind their closest rivals by six seconds.
Clocking a time of 3min 18sec, they pocketed RM4,000 for their effort, while Pertubuhan Peladang Kawasan Tuaran came in second with a time of 3min 24sec to bring home RM2,500 followed a close two second behind by the Maju Oriental Dragon Boat Team who bagged RM1,000.
The last time the Bruneians came up top was in 2005 and they came in second last year beaten by the Guangdong China Team in the category opened only to international and top Malaysian teams.
An elated Brunei International Dragon Boat Association vice president, Hj Haris Hj Ibrahim, said his team had shown excellent performance and had never failed to deliver medals in major tournaments.
"We have proven our status that we are a capable team and we too have proved that we are a strong and well-disciplined squad," said Haris who is also the team manager when met soon after the prize presentation ceremony.
"We actually sent two teams to compete in both the international categories that is the Sabah Head of State Trophy and the Sabah Chief Minister Trophy. We won one and lost oneÉbut that is fair enough," he added.
The Brunei Team B came in last in the Sabah Chief Minister Trophy.
Haris said the team came to Sabah for the championship on invitation from the organisers. "We will never disappoint any organisers who invite us to take part in any race and that is why we are here."
Describing the race as tough, Haris said the team`s main contenders were the Penang and Philippines team. "The first 100 yards were the toughest. We were facing difficulties as we were paddling slowly, but once we got the momentum right, the rowers started to pick up the pace and rowed as hard as they could.
Asked on their preparation, he said they trained everyday in Brunei. "We have been doing this over the last one year. This win is a good exposure for us before we compete in the International Dragon Boat Race in Batam, Indonesia in August."
Haris further said that next year they hope to compete and defend their title again.
The prizes were handed over by Head of State Tun Ahmadshah Abdullah. Present during the championship were Deputy Chief Minister cum Rural Development Minister Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan who represented Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, Sabah Chinese Cultural Association President, Datuk Chau Tet On and Sabah Tourism Board Chairman Dato` Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin.
Source: www.dailyexpress.com (21 Juni 2007)