In the world of sports, one of the toughest things for a team to do is go on the road to face off against a top rival, on their home turf, and compete for a championship.
That is the scenario faced by London’s own Rowbust Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat Racing Team as they prepare to defend their Club Crew World Championship, won in Ravenna, Italy back in 2014.
But to defend that title, the Rowbust members are facing a 23-hour flight to Adelaide, Australia.
To put that journey into perspective, the Rowbust team will fly from Toronto to Vancouver and then Vancouver to Adelaide, leaving on Saturday, March 19, and arriving Down Under — with the time difference — on Monday, March 21.
“Our coaches have told us how we’re going to spend those 23 hours,” said Linda Kuska, the Rowbust team captain who has been a member all 17 years the team has existed. “We’ve been told when we will sleep and when we won’t. We lose the first day of spring over the flight.”
The Rowbust members, who come from throughout the London area, are going to face their challenges just getting to Australia.
Kuska said the plan is for the team to be awake on the flight to Vancouver, then during a one-hour layover the members will be running, doing jumping jacks and skipping, whatever they can to keep their heart rates up.
On the flight to Sydney, they will be awake for the first half of the flight, have their dinner meal, and then sleep the second half of the flight.
The team is getting into Australia nearly two weeks early for a 10-day training camp, which means they face a three-hour bus ride to a facility in Canberra.
They will be awake for that part too, including a walking tour of Adelaide, where the championships will take place over two days.
“We did kind of the same thing when we went to Italy. And it worked great; we felt awesome that day,” Kuska said. “We’re ready physically, but our coach, she also prepares us mentally. If you’re ready in your head, then you’re ready.”
One thing the team did have going for it is the clear support of people in the surrounding area.
That support is all the more impressive when noting the team raised $80,000 in just five months through a variety of sold-out — and often creative — fundraising endeavours.
Along with these major fundraisers, Rowbust had many donors and sponsors to assist with the costs of sending the 26 competitive team members (out of 70 total members) to Australia.
Kuska has been to the worlds before, but team members Linda Wharton (third year) and Margaret Warden (second year) are excited about their world championship adventure.
Wharton said she thinks the team is well prepared for the world championships and can’t wait “to just get in the boat and do our job.”
Warden agreed with being excited to get the adventure started.
“We’ve been so well prepared by our coaches and working together as a team. But also, the tremendous support of the community,” Warden said. “And we’re there to represent Rowbust as a group. The commitment is huge and everyone has been working really hard. We’re anxious to get going.”
But Kuska’s experience with wearing the Canadian maple leaf on her jersey is something nobody can understand until they are wearing it.
Adding to the excitement is the fact Rowbust will be the only Canadian team in the breast cancer division.
“You walk in with your country flag and your team flag, you walk in as athletes in front of the spectators, it’s a very surreal experience,” Kuska said. “You’re very privileged to be able to do this. I feel very honoured to have that Canadian flag on my jersey. It’s a huge honour.”