Paddling her way to the top

Brooke Campbell won 3 gold medals and a bronze with Victoria's Gorging Dragons at the IDBF Club Crew World Championships earlier this month.

Nelson's Brooke Campbell poses with her medal haul shortly after competing at the IDBF Club Crew World Championships in Adelaide

All the vindication Brooke Campbell needs for months of grueling training now hangs around her neck.

The Nelson native won three gold medals and a bronze at the IDBF Club Crew World Championships in Adelaide, Australia, April 1 to 7. Campbell, who competes with the Victoria-based dragon boat team Gorging Dragons, is still riding the high of an exhilarating trip.

“It was pretty tear-evoking to be standing on the podium, singing O Canada, getting the medals around our necks …,” said Campbell. “It really was a sweet moment.”

Campbell won gold and bronze in the 2,000-metre and the aggregate 500 senior C women’s division events, respectively. She was also one of three women chosen to paddle in the senior C men’s open category, which led to two more golds in the aggregate 500 and 200 events.

Teams needed a few days of practice to adjust to new boats before the races began. After that, Campbell’s inclusion on the men’s team meant she was hustling between races.

“I would have to jump out of the boat I was in, sprint across the sand, have the officials check my badges, jump into the men’s boat and immediately go and race again,” she said.

Campbell started rowing in 2012. She decided to try out for the Gorging Dragons, but didn’t tell her family what she was up to in case it didn’t work out.

“It was a personal challenge that I wanted to see if I could do,” she said. “Rather than come back and have to explain to people that I didn’t get on, I wanted to tell people my own way.”

Of course, it did work out in the end. Campbell made the team in February 2015 and began commuting between her home in Nelson and Victoria to train.

Campbell was in the boat with the Gorging Dragons when they competed at the Canadian Dragon Boat Championships in Welland, Ont., last June. That trip qualified them for the Club Crew World Championships, for which Campbell said the team trained six or seven days a week for two months prior to the flight to Adelaide.

“I’m really proud. To be part of such a committed team of people, you’re only as strong as your weakest link and it’s certainly true in dragon boating,” she said. “It’s actually the beauty of this sport. … You can’t compete against one another, you’ve got to compete with one another. That’s the power of being in the boat. When it clicks, when it’s working and you’re all pulling together and supporting one another, it’s the kind of thing that can happen.”

Now that she’s back home, Campbell is taking some time to decide what she does next. The national team has reached out to her, and she also hopes to stay on with the Gorging Dragons.

“Who knows what’s going to happen?” she said. “There’s always more challenges and life continues to evolve and be interesting.”

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