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Boy's rapid paddle to dragon boat success

IT WAS just 12 months ago that teenager Mark Clare started to take his 2,000-year-old hobby seriously.

IT WAS just 12 months ago that teenager Mark Clare started to take his 2,000-year-old hobby seriously.

But today the 15-year-old is paddling for Great Britain in the world championships of the ancient Chinese sport of Dragon Boat Racing.

Mark, from Wallasey, is the youngest person from the North West to qualify after training for such a short period of time - an achievement he never believed would become a reality.

His mother, Sophie, said last night: "Mark is one of those teenagers who is extremely difficult to motivate, but he became really focused on dragon boat racing the first time he attempted the sport.

"I am absolutely delighted with his achievements and very proud of him."

Mark, who is now a member of the Amathus Club in Liverpool, is currently the under 18 national champion - a title he will defend together with his team mates in September.

Mark's achievement is the latest chapter of a success story that runs in the Clare family.

His aunt, Karen, who lives in Old Swan, has represented Great Britain on several occasions and his mother, also an Amathus Club member, has scooped both bronze and silver medals in national championship events.

The sport is even catching on with Mark's younger cousin, Sean, 12, who is also training.

Mark became even more determined-to succeed after watching his aunt in a world championship event in Nottingham two years ago.

Hundreds of young people travelled to America earlier this year, all with

And from the 22 who were lucky enough to qualify, 11 of the teenagers were from the Liverpool club.

Dave Bangs, manager of the Amathus Dragon Boat Club, is also the men's British team coach.

MR BANGS said: "Mark is a very determined young man. "I offered him trials and told him where he needed to improve. I said if he followed the guidelines he would have a chance.

"It can be difficult to assess an individual's speed and what contribution they are making when there are 20 people in a boat so we use a single seater to identify how fast people can paddle."

Mark received his first taste of the sport two years ago when he attended the Mersey River Festival.

Ms Clare said: "He had the opportunity to have a go in a boat and really enjoyed it.

"Mark had never previously been involved in any sporting activity because he felt he could never succeed."

"The training is fairly vigorous and involves work in the water, together with power and technical training.

"When Mark was training to become part of the Great Britain crew he was also dedicating his time during the weekend."

She said that Mark's school has also been extremely supportive, even donating money to fund some of his trips.

Mark, a pupil at Mosslands School in Wallasey, now trains at least three times a week.

This involves water-based training, together with technical and power training.

Amathus Dragon Boat Club was launched in 1988.

Mr Bangs was invited to take part in a race in China where he first became involved in dragon boat racing.

Mr Bangs said: "When I returned I started to change the focus of the Amathus Club which was previously a canoe club.

"I wanted to focus on dragon boat racing which I believed to be a lot more fun."

The club now has 60 members aged from 12 to 55. It is the only one based on Merseyside which races at national and international level.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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