The spirit of that old saying "it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game" is alive and well with the women on the Sun Dragons dragon boat team.
However, being guaranteed a medal finish Friday morning and paddling away with a bronze never hurts morale, especially when competing in an event like the B.C. Seniors Games.
"It's exciting. It's very, very exciting," coach Laima Brown said heading in the race.
But the 24 women from Kamloops, Salmon Arm and elsewhere in the Interior who are the Sun Dragons have always been about playing the game.
Brown said it shows in how hard they train. The Sun Dragons practiced once a week during the summer, and that's on top of the practices with the women's regular dragon-boat clubs.
At 65, Brown said competing at a level like the seniors games takes go-getters — people with the drive and determination to succeed.
"You have to be able to participate, have fun and love the water," she said.
Competition might be part of dragon boating, but it's not what the sport is about at its core, she said. As far as Brown and her fellow Sun Dragons are concerned, the soul of dragon boating is in the camaraderie that develops among the team.
For Brown, who is a member of The Spirit Warriors in Kamloops, that bond helped her as a breast cancer survivor. She said 16 Sun Dragons have battled the disease.
She said dragon boating can prevent lymphedema, a buildup of fluids in the body that can form in the upper arms of cancer survivors and cause complications.
"Paddling is one of the best exercises there is (for preventing lymphedema)," said Brown.
Fellow Sun Dragon Ann Weller said the support of her teammates helped her recover from breast cancer.
Now she enjoys meeting women of different age groups, travelling to races, and the thrill that comes with exercise, she said. Weller has befriended women in their 30s and 70s.
"You learn how to survive and take care of each other. It's wonderful," said Weller.
She likes the team spirit and the fact that, no matter the performance level, there's room in the boat for everyone.
Weller and Brown turned to dragon boating after breast cancer, but Brown believes the camaraderie and friendships are good for anyone.
"I think dragon boating in general is very good for support of any kind," she said. "It's good for friendship and fitness."
Zoned Out was another team with local dragon boaters competing on Friday. Sisters and teammates Rae Fawcett and Ann Rorison said they've heard nothing but good things about the venue at Riverside Park.
"One person who had been dragon boating for many years said this is the nicest venue they'd been to," said Fawcett.
"We're so proud to be from Kamloops," said Rorison.
Fawcett took up dragon boating first and talked Rorison, her younger sister, into it. They've never looked back.
"We are the Dragon Sisters," said Rorison.
Fawcett said dragon boating is "one of the best workouts you can have" and the camaraderie is fantastic.
The B.C. Seniors Games concludes Saturday.