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Con Ed dragon boaters rev up for race

The Electric Dragons of Con Edison reignited their competitive spark with the first of many practices leading up to one of the most storied races in Queens.

The team, featuring many Queens residents, congregated for exercises, drills and simulated races on Meadow Lake at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park on Saturday, June 19.

Team captain Jackson Koo took control of recruiting this year and has been searching for worthy teammates to paddle their beastly vessels to victory. For Koo, commitment and teamwork are key qualities to making this unique experience a winning one.

“We have an extremely solid crew this year. Some are rookies, but we also have a core of seasoned vets,” said Koo, who works in public improvement for Con Edison and resides in Rego Park. “Some do it for fun and some are more serious, but we all want victory every year.”

This year, the Electric Dragons will be split into two squads during the two-day event on August 7 and 8. One will compete at the race in Queens and one will roar up to a race in Peekskill, the site of a first-place finish for Con Edison one year ago. The Queens race did not fare as well for the Electric Dragons, which is why Koo is emphasizing timing and paddle strength this time around.

However, brute force is not enough to satisfy Koo; there is one element that is perhaps most important to conquering the dragon.

“Endurance, endurance, endurance,” stressed Koo. “That is really what makes this such a good workout.”

Taking part in the workout will be Con Edison’s roster of 85 men and women. Each of the team’s two squads on race day will carry 12 paddlers, one drummer up front and one person steering the boat from the rear. The rest are the Dragon Boat equivalent of bench players.

Team co-captain Johnny Dong, of Forest Hills, said that the team will practice eight or nine times in the weeks leading up to the race day. According to Dong, a strict, rigorous workout schedule is exactly what paddlers need to get into the shape and mindset necessary for competition.

“I’ve been doing this for over 10 years,” said Dong. “And every year I’m reminded of just how difficult it can be. Everyone needs to be working together.”

Dong also said that while the teams are friendly on land, everything changes once they hit the water, and the intensity dials up. Even the dragon boats, docile on land, can grow agitated at sea.

“There have been altercations where boats have collided,” he said. “They have even been known to capsize when the water gets rough.”

While the waters can wreak havoc on the boats, Koo’s even sprung a leak during practice, the Electric Dragons fear nothing. Nothing, that is, except electricity.

“Only lightning can keep the Electric Dragons out of the water,” he said.

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