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The Philippine Dragon Boat Federation's team of hardy paddlers, bucking all sorts of odds stacked against them, made a statement right away by bagging two gold medals, one in record-breaking fashion, at the 10th World Dragon Boat Racing Championships in Tampa, Florida.

On Thursday, the Pinoy paddlers ruled the 1000-meter small boat event, setting a world record of four minutes, 57.13 seconds to beat Australia (5:00.09) and Hungary (5:03.71) for their first gold medal of these championships, which drew the finest dragon boat teams from all over the world.

It marks the third straight time the PDBF has won a gold medal in record time in the World Dragon Boat Racing Championships after ruling the men's standard 200-meter event in 2007 and 2009. But this triumph was made all the more special by the numerous obstacles the team faced beforehand.

The PDBF, which practices in the garbage-strewn waters of Manila Bay, almost withdrew from the prestigious event due to lack of funds before Cobra Energy Drink and Philippine Airlines pitched in with corporate sponsorship. Then some paddlers left to join a rival group, depleting the team at the worst possible time and forcing the remaining members to train doubly hard.

The team, composed of members of the Philippine Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, decided to join the small boat race for the very first time, which called for a big adjustment in strategy. Unlike the 200m standard boat race, which can be likened to a sprint and which has more paddlers, the 1000m small boat race requires fewer paddlers racing over a much longer distance. Additionally, unlike the other teams, the PDBF entered the first heat without the benefit of a practice session.

It didn't matter in the end as the Pinoy Paddlers topped the first heat with a time of 4:59.79, almost two seconds ahead of Australia's 5:02:59 effort. For the final heat, the team went with a slower stroke rate, a move that paid off handsomely with a world record and gold-medal finish.

The following day, a PDBF team of five male and five female paddlers ruled the premier 200m mixed event with a time of 57.07 seconds, way ahead of Trinidad and Tobago's 1:00.719. Puerto Rico won the bronze with a time of 1:03.393.

An animated crowd of Filipinos residing in the Tampa Bay area have shown up to cheer on the team during their races, a big turnaround from the almost zero attention they got back home from sports officials and the general public.

The team goes for a three-peat in the men's premier 200m today and is also aiming for golds in the men's 500m and mixed 500m. Sounds ambitious? With this resilient group of young men and women, anything is within reach.