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US Dragon Boat Team Preps; Youth Initiative Launched in Manayunk

Nearly 80 national team members trained in Schuylkill River over the weekend.s

While nearly 80 world-class athletes trained in the Schuylkill River, the U.S. National Dragon Boat Team debuted an increased youth campaign from the Manayunk Brewery's dock Friday.

Dragon boat athletes from across the United States met in Manayunk for weekend training camp in preparation for an August 30 competition in Milan, Italy. National team coach Mike Blundetto took the gathering as an opportunity to announce a new push for dragon boat youth.

"We're launching an initiative to get our youth into the World Club Crew Championships in the Ukraine," he said.

Based in Manayunk, the national dragon boat team will recruit a junior team ages 15 to 18 to compete in the 2013 event. 

"Over the years, Manayunk has really become a great home for the dragon boat program," Blundetto said, adding the increased interest of youth in aquatics, and this sport in particular, spurred on the junior program.

The program even refitted its fleet of boats and rebuilt its dock—located at the sponsoring —following a .

Jane Lipton, executive director of the , said the national presence emphasizes that Manayunk is a destination location.

"The U.S. Dragon Boat Team is really important for Manayunk to continue to establish itself as a recreation destination for kayaking, canoeing, and dragon-boating," she said.

Before the 80 mens and womens national dragon boat representatives settled in for a three-day training camp, the coaching staff indoctrinated some teens to the water. Youth from the 's Teens 4 Good program hit the Schuylkill River Friday to practice with the national team.

According to Billy Eisenberg, the Teens 4 Good program allows local youth to spend their summers working in professional internships and experience unique opportunities—like paddling alongside international athletes. Some teens work with environmental groups—like the —others are in restaurants—like —while others work for retail, like at .

Visit the national team's website for more information.

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