• In Saturday races, NBP Paddling Program sweeps world competition for three gold medals• Overall medal count is six gold, two silver and one bronze• Senior A women’s boat will compete Sunday after weather postponed Saturday-afternoon competitionSARASOTA-BRADENTON, Fla.: They did it in the long haul, the short sprint, and now, Nathan Benderson Park’s paddling program has swept its competition to take three more world championships, for a total of six.The park is playing host this week to the 2022 International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) 13th Club Crew World Championships. This biennial event brings together the world’s best crews after they won their national club competitions.The NBP Paddling Program’s crews competed Saturday in the classic 500-meter dragon-boat sprint. They competed Tuesday in the 2000-meter oval competition, which has been called “stock-car racing on the water,” and Thursday in the 200-meter sprint.In the 500-meter sprints, three NBP crews took gold and top international honors. Two of those honors are considered unofficial until the medal presentation Sunday morning.The NBP Dragons community team’s senior-B (ages 50 and older) short boat was presented its gold medals Saturday morning. That boat also claimed a silver in the 2000-meter oval and a bronze in the 200-meter sprint.NBP Survivors In Sync will claim its title Sunday morning in the 500-meter after its Saturday win. The crew snagged a world championship gold medal in the 200-meter sprint, and a silver in the 2000-meter oval competition Tuesday. The team paddles in the breast-cancer survivors (BCP) division with a standard 20-paddler boat.The NBP Warriors, a team competing in the all-cancer survivors (ACP) division with a short-boat entry of 10 paddlers, will claim its third set of gold medals Sunday morning after its Saturday performance in the 500-meter. They took a world championship home in the 200-meter sprint, after claiming the world championship in the 2000-meter ovals Tuesday.“Today was an exciting day of racing to watch three of our four crews sweep their races and end their week of competition with three golds,” said Stephen V. Rodriguez, the president of the Nathan Benderson Park Conservancy. “These are truly world champions who’ve been working hard all year to hone their skills on the water and to deliver a truly world-championship performance. We congratulate all of NBP Paddling for this win, whether they were on the water, supporters, or future world champions.”NBP Paddling Program Head Coach Angela Long said she hopes this week helped put the paddling program “on the map.”“We’ve only just begun and I’m really excited about our beginning,” she said. “I am so incredibly proud of our crews and the hard work and teamwork they have put into achieving success at this Club Crew Worlds.”The upstart program, which traces its origins to 2014, now challenges longstanding legends in the sport, she said.“We’re up against teams that have paddled for years and years, and coaches who’ve done this for years and years,” Long said. “For us to be at this level is mind-boggling.”The four NBP entries are rounded out with a senior-A women’s boat, which is a group of novice paddlers as well as some experienced paddlers, she said.“I saw there was an opportunity. I knew there was so much potential in them,” she said. “Some of them are seasoned, experienced paddlers, but in the last six months, they’ve really started paddling together and started to become a team. The future is bright for them, and I think they’ve got it.”For the entire program, paddling brings a rich experience, but that’s not all, Long said.“For them to reap the rewards, they see the payoff just from being together and being part of the program,” she said. “It brings a lot of joy and value to their lives. But this is the icing on the cake.”Club-crew championships are different from the alternating-year IDBF World Nations Championships, in which athletes are hand-picked for national teams that compete. The club-crew championship event is in the United States for the first time ever.The four crews qualified for world berths from the U.S. Dragon Boat Federation Club Crew National Championships, which were also held at the park in October 2021.The NBP Paddling Program has four teams, including the NBP Veterans team for military veterans wounded, able and disabled alike. The teams are open to the public for both recreation and competition. Contact Long at along@nathanbendersonpark.org to try out the sport.

aerial shot of Nathan Benderson Park