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Cheer the 'Oaring Lions at the Dragon Boat Festival

10/14/2010 —

 A group of eager Lions are perfecting their game faces and prepping their biceps as they prepare to emerge on Saturday, October 23 as the first Penn State Brandywine dragon boat team. The ‘Oaring Lions, made up of more than 20 campus faculty and staff, will take on the St. Joseph’s University Hawks, University of Maryland University College (UMUC) Virtual Dragons and other local colleges and universities at the annual Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival along the Schuykill River bank.

Hoi Michael Cheung motivating his boat mates, with the Philadelphia skyline in the background

The team has been practicing hard, both on the river and off. On several occasions, the campus gymnasium was booming with energy as the ‘Oaring Lions stroked the air with tennis rackets to perfect their form as synchronicity is said to be far more important than strength in a dragon boat race.

On race day, which begins at 8 a.m. and will last well into the afternoon, as more than 150 teams race in different heats, the ‘Oaring Lions can be found in two Penn State Brandywine tents, numbers 132 and 133, where supporters can meet up to cheer, enjoy the festival, hang with the Nittany Lion and dig in on some light grub and refreshments provided by the campus. For those decked out in their best Penn State gear, the ‘Oaring Lions will award small prizes.

The dragon boat, whose design originated in ancient China, earned its name from the decorative regalia in the form of a dragonhead and tail found in the front and rear of the slender boat. As a prominent sport in Hong Kong, it’s only fitting that the drummer for the Penn State Brandywine ‘Oaring Lions grew up watching the races in his native city.

“The races were in the river right next to the building where we lived,” Hoi Michael Cheung, network systems specialist in the campus’ Information Technology Services Office, said. “They actually broadcast them so it was fun to watch the races on TV and look out the window and see the same thing.” But those races were more professional than the Philadelphia competition and Cheung had no shot at a future in dragon boat racing. “People are very serious about it” in Hong Kong.
While he’s “pretty excited” to finally have a chance to compete in the sport he loved as a child, Cheung said knowing what’s involved in paddling made him choose the drummer’s position. “The drummer requires the least effort. I don’t need to paddle or anything,” he laughed. It looks like Cheung won’t provide any muscle, but he’s sure to bring some of that ancient spirit to help the ‘Oaring Lions reach gold.

For more information, contact Risa Pitman at 610-892-1255 or rlp29@psu.edu.

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