BALIK PULAU: It was all brains and brawn as the KL Barbarians “oared” their way to victory at the Penang International Dragon Boat Festival 2022.

The group of city folk, with women outnumbering men, comprised lawyers, architects, lecturers, banking personnel, property developers, teachers and even housewives.

They trained diligently throughout the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown period and arrived for the festival yesterday looking at their fittest.

“Some of us lost 20kg. Our weight matters and it made me change my lifestyle,” said KL Barbarian’s oldest member Hazlinda Hashim, 55.

Having joined the team in 2019, she said she was fascinated by the sport because it was a team effort.

“We win or lose together. Just because one person is stronger than the rest doesn’t matter,” she said.

“It is about working together.”

She said it took commitment to take part in races and train, and especially for women, it was a great way to get together and do something exciting.

“We come from different lifestyles, careers and backgrounds. Some of us could not even do push-ups before we started,” she said.

Hazlinda said many did not know that women could take part in dragon boat racing.

“Outdoor sports in a team is real fun,” she said at the festival held at Teluk Bahang Dam here yesterday.

Serene Hiew, 34, said the KL Barbarians started off with just lawyers before drawing teammates from other professions.

“We have three teams, the men’s team (12), women’s team (12) and the mixed team, which has 22 rowers. In our group, the women outnumber the men,” said the lawyer.

Hiew said due to work commitments, it took supreme effort for everyone to dedicate Saturday mornings for team practice.

“We have to prioritise our time and keep that slot for practice. On weekdays, we do our own daily workouts to keep fit.

“We do take a break at the end of the year until after the Chinese New Year,” she added.

Hiew, who has been involved in dragon boat racing for 12 years, said it was great to be back here after the pandemic had halted all outdoor activities.

“We did Zoom workouts together to keep fit. When we train, we never want to disappoint because if one does not show up, it affects everyone.

“We are committed to each other and the team,” she said.

Pasukan Lela Cheteria from Brunei, which took part in the International Juniors Under-24 event, was among the teams from Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Australia, and the Philippines.

Team manager Ibrahim Mohd Yussof said they had not participated in this category in Penang before.

“We were invited to take part and it has been great. This is a great place to race.

“We go to Sabah, Sarawak and Langkawi for boat races.

“We may come here next year to take part in the other categories as well,” he said.

The festival, returning after a two-year hiatus, saw 36 teams paddling in five international categories – Premier Mixed, Seniors 40 Open, Premier Women, Premier Open and Under-24 Open.