Former Different Strokes coach Diana Dent, who led the gay and lesbian dragon boating club to its most successful season on record, has been on a winning streak since leaving to focus on her own goals in the sport.

The 49-year-old Gladesville mother of three recently returned from Tampa, Florida, where she helped the Australian dragon boating team, the Auroras, take home a massive medal haul at the Dragon Boat World Championships.

“I’m in the masters crew, and on the first day of racing we won a bronze medal. Then we won gold later on that day. It put me on a high for the whole competition, having that great first day,” Dent told the Star Observer.

“Australia took home 15 medals. Of those 15, I was lucky enough to get a gold, two silver and three bronze.”

She was also chosen by her teammates to be the Australian flag bearer at the championships, capping off a whirlwind year of competition for a woman who only entered the sport five years ago.

“I’ve paddled through many winters and keep saying, ‘I’m never doing that again, this is far too cold!’ But there’s always another goal, another reason to get back out onto the water,” she said.

Dent is now training junior teams and staying focused for future international events. But she said she had fond memories of her season coaching Different Strokes, helping to turn the then-fledgling club into a serious contender in the world of Australian dragon boating.

“When I started as coach there were 20 people, and when I finished there were about 85. They went to their first Australian championships in Canberra last season and performed very well — we didn’t win any medals, but we did make it to a minor final. It was a really good position to leave the season on.

“The club’s a really good mix of the competitive and the social, so anyone interested in giving dragon boating a go should definitely go to a session.”

To get involved with Different Strokes or attend one of their weekly training sessions, join the ‘Different Strokes Dragon Boat Club’ open group on Facebook. You can also get involved with the Dragons Abreast Festival taking place on October 30: this is the opposite end to the elite sports – where most people start their paddling career as a social paddler. More details at www.dragonsabreastfestival.com.au

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