Monday, October 22, 2018


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Paddling to Gold
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

Upper Perkiomen graduate wins medals at Dragon Boat World Championships


            In less than three years, Andrea Hill went from working out on a rowing machine to a world champion dragon boat racer.

            In October, Hill – a 2005 Upper Perkiomen High School graduate –

won a gold medal in the 1,000 meter race at the 13th International Dragon Boat Federation World Championships. She and her female teammates paddling for the United States Dragon Boat Federation captured a silver medal in the 2,000 meter race and a bronze in the 500 meter race during the event in Kunming China. The team also finished fourth in the 200 meter race.

            "I figured we would be very competitive," Hill said. "But I never thought we would win a gold medal. It was so exciting."

            A team of 20 paddlers, sitting on 10 benches, work in unison to propel the boat from a standing start to the finish line as quickly as possible. The team includes a drummer, positioned at the front of the boat, who sets the pace for the paddlers, and a helmsman in the back, who steers the boat.

            Hill was approached about joining a community dragon boat club while working out on a rowing machine in December of 2014. A fellow member of a Pottstown cross-fit gym invited her to sign up for the all-female team.

            "Initially, I was the worst paddler by far," she said. "But the coach and my teammates really helped me with my technique. I loved being out on the water, and it was empowering to be in a boat with 19 other women."

            Encouraged by her initial coach, Hill joined the Philadelphia Dragon Boat Association – the nation's oldest and most prestigious dragon boat club team – during the summer of 2015. She said the coach there, Bob McNamara, helped her significantly improve her paddling technique.

            That fall, Hill signed up to try out for a spot on the United States Dragon Boat Federation team. But she had no expectations of being selected to compete in the world championship event.

            After successfully completing a multitude of fitness tests, she participated in a series of four solo time trials this summer at the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park in Titusville NJ. On June 4 and July 7, she paddled 650 meters and against the clock, then immediately returned to the starting line and did the same for a distance of 425 meters.

            According to Hill, the key to being an effective paddler is having a strong core. "There's a lot of twisting involved," she said. "You don't need super strong arms."

            Hill – who lives in Philadelphia and works as a consultant for a cyber security firm based in Blue Bell – practices on the water five days a week during the summer. Over the winter, she said her training will include roadwork, Yoga and exercise on a rowing machine with an outrigger canoe extension.

            In July, Hill expects to compete with the Philadelphia Dragon Boat Association – which captured the 2017 national club championship – at the club crew world championships in Szeged, Hungary.





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