Hey Tampa!  Phil here with more Paddler news from the World Dragon Boat Racing Championship in Prague!
 
It's day six.  Up again at the crack of dawn.  The buses left at 7:00am again so a quick breakfast and down to the buses.  We all load onto three or four large buses, stowing our gear under the bus or in the over head compartments.  It’s like moving a mobile army every day.  About the time the Championships are over we’ll probably have it down to a science.  Not yet though!  
 
It’s usually a flurry of whirling arms, legs, baggage and paddles.  No rhyme or reason and first come first served.. .. so no one wants to be late.  By the way, Bob McNamara, the coach, while being a really good guy is of the old Marine drill sergeant type and you do not want to be singled out or particularly noticed by him.  Usually if he does target you for something it’s not good!  So far, I've able to avoid much of his attention, other than being included on the team rosters to paddle, which is a good thing!  I hope to keep it that way.
 
The weather today is totally different from yesterday.  It’s absolutely beautiful, clear skies with puffy scattered clouds.  No racing delays and we can see the entire races course.  The starting platforms have been moved up to the 200 meter point.  There are more vendors showing up so I expect that by Saturday and Sunday we’ll see a lot more action both in numbers of spectators and vendors hawking their products.  All of it sports related, mostly to dragon boating or other paddling sports.  
 
Today, the morning races are all the mixed divisions and the afternoon are all the men and women events.  The premier mixed unfortunately did not qualify for the finals, but did win their minor finals, that gave them sixth place.  The senior A mixed team made it to the finals and took third place for a bronze.  Pam and I paddling together in the Grand Masters mixed team qualified for the finals, but could only take fourth place, missing third by hundredths of a second.  
 
That’s how close many of these races are.  This is big time racing.  It’s weird but sometimes wining a first round heat puts you in sub-optimal position. Winning a heat automatically puts you in the finals in one of the center lanes.  Here in Prague, it seems that the center lanes are running a little slower, at least at the start, than the outside lanes.  However if you have to qualify in the semi-final heat you then are guaranteed one of the outer lanes.  
 
Of course it puts pressure on your performance in the semi-final because you need to place high enough to get into the final or else you’re relegated to the minor finals with no hope for a medal.  So, you are always trying to race your fastest and most strategic race.
 
So, how’d the day go.  All I can say is “thank heaven for little girls”.  Isn’t that what Maurice Chevallier (sp) sang?  You’ll see what I mean in a minute.  I raced in six races: three in the GM mixed (already mentioned above) and three in the Senior Men’s A division.  The senior men are struggling with our starts.  We just aren’t getting off of the line quickly enough and we’re at a disadvantage before we’re 25 meters down the course.  
 
We never figured it out and did not medal in the finals.  The other countries are very strong and at the end of the day, none of the men’s teams medalled.  The women are a different story!  Now for the thank heaven!  In addition to the Senior Mixed that took bronze (at least there were men on that boat), the GM women took a bronze, the Senior women took a silver and the premier women took another bronze at the very end of the day.  
 
So, three bronze medals and one silver medal today.  Not bad, but “thank heaven for little girls” or the day could have been pretty bleak.  By the way, many if not most of these races were decided by hundredths of seconds.  
 
Tomorrow we start the 500 meter races which will take the last two days of the championships.  The USA team is not really a sprint focused team.  So the short races aren’t our forte.  We expect to do much better over the next two days and I’ll be able to report better news . . . at least for the guys anyway.  I don’t like riding the bus on that long ride back to the hotel with nothing around my neck.  
 
I’m getting a good night’s rest tonight . . . after heading into Prague for a pig’s knuckle dinner again . . . and I’ll be ready for the 500’s tomorrow.  Wish us luck.  I still wouldn’t trade this for anything.  This is absolutely the coolest thing!

Everyone will love it when this comes to Tampa in 2011...both Tampa residents and visitors and competitors.  So many great things to do in Tampa Bay and this will certainly add to the Tampa Bay area events we have going on.