Ulixes Pictures | Dragon Ladies
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Dragon Ladies


Dragon boat is an ancient sport played on boats whose heads and tails are shaped like a dragon’s. In its modern form, the crews are composed of 22 athletes: 20 paddlers seated side by side, a drummer that provides rhythm with a large drum and a helmsman at the stern holding the direction with a long oar.


In 1996 in Vancouver, Canada, a sports medicine project had a group of women of different ages, who had all undergone surgery for breast cancer, trained in a dragon boat. The positive results of the study refuted the theories of immobility according to which after surgical treatment of breast cancer the upper body of the torso should be kept at rest because physical strain and exercise could cause the onset of lymphoedema (the ‘big-arm syndrome’, a debilitating and painful swelling with a strong physical and psychological disabling impact on patients’ lives).


The type of physical training, the mythological figure of the oriental dragon, bearer of physical well-being and rebirth and the sense of team that is created by being metaphorically all “on the same boat” have positive effects for the psycho-physical rehabilitation of athletes.


The Florence Dragon Lady LILT is a dragon boat team founded in 2006 as part of the Florentine section of the LILT (Italian League for the Fight against Cancer). The team consists solely of “women in pink – breast cancer survivors bcs”, operated on for breast cancer and are about 60, aged 37 to 74 years.


From July 6 to 8, 2018, for the first time in Italy and Europe, the city of Florence hosted the International Dragon Boat Festival. The Festival, now in its fifth edition, is a non-competitive sporting event that takes place every 4 years and has seen the participation of about 5000 “women in pink” of 129 crews from 17 different countries. The Florence Dragon Ladies LILT team lined up two crews and ranked fourth in the general table.


Giuseppe Chiantera

Project Details

Italy, Florence. 2018