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UIC Pyro Paddlers: ready, set, go!

Dragon Boat Races 2014

The UIC Pyro Paddlers compete in two races this month. “Dragon boating helps to build team spirit, not just for the Pyro Paddlers, but also for our university as a whole,” says team co-captain Jenny Korn, a doctoral student in communication and gender and women’s studies.

The UIC Pyro Paddlers hit the water again with two upcoming dragon boat races Saturday and June 28.

The team, formed in 2008, placed first in its division in 2011 and co-captain Kevin Chiem is excited for this year.

“We’ve been becoming more competitive,” said Chiem, a 2013  graduate in biochemistry who’s now a scientist for Wockhardt, a pharmaceutical and biotechnology company.

The team, composed of UIC students, employees and alumni, will race at the St. Charles RiverFest this weekend and the Chicago Chinatown Dragon Boat Race for Literacy June 28.

“At every race, I look forward to the Pyro Paddlers’ team shout of ‘U-I-C,'” said Jenny Korn, co-captain of the Pyro Paddlers and doctoral candidate in communication and gender and women’s studies.

“Dragon boating helps to build team spirit, not just for the Pyro Paddlers, but also for our university as a whole.”

The dragon boat team includes 18 paddlers, a flag puller and a drummer. The team paddles to the cadence of the drum to increase coordination.

“It doesn’t matter how strong you are individually but how strong you are in conjunction with the rest of the team,” said Elvin Chan, team manager of the Pyro Paddlers and assistant director of the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center.

“Every dragon boat team works on endurance and speed, while still staying in sync with one another,” Korn said. “Those goals were our focus this year.”

The Pyro Paddlers hold three practices each year: one in May and two before the summer race dates.

“Because of the Midwest’s weather, our seasons are shorter than in other regions of the U.S.,” Chan said.

In May, the paddlers practiced with canoes in the Chicago River at Clark Park. “Our captains worked on getting people comfortable with the water and being in sync and coordination with one another,” Chan said.

An ancient Chinese tradition that has become a modern-day sport, dragon boat racing is fun for all — participants and spectators.

“This is something that isn’t just an Asian thing,” Chan said.