"I thought I'd be really intimidated but I felt really good; it was just like a really big Canberra regatta," Gill McCallum said of her experience in the Australian dragon boating team at the World Championships in Thailand.
A delighted McCallum who trains with the Merimbula Water Dragons, came home with a gold medal for the Senior B (over 50) 200m women's race, and bronze medals for the Senior B 2km women's race, Senior A (over 40) 1000m women's race and Senior B 500m women's race; all races were in boats with 20 paddlers.
The Australians collected 14 gold medals placing them 4th in the world.
"On the first race there were 22 boats all heading out together; it was absolute mayhem. There was so much going on the sweep couldn't hear the starter but she took the corners so well. It probably wasn't the best race but for my first time out it settled me down," McCallum said of her 2km race.
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In the first heat of her 200m races the team came in just behind the leader prompting the Australian coach to ask if the team had 2 seconds in them.
"Bloody oath we did. To actually be in a boat where the water is moving so fast that you have to find the non-moving water deep down was amazing," McCallum said.
The pressure was on because the Australian teams in 10s boats had already won four gold medals.
When they heard they had won, it was a special moment.
But it wasn't all smooth sailing with the heat and humidity taking its toil on some competitors.
"We were there five days beforehand and had two days training, one day off and then another two days training.
"Getting in and out of our boats all day helped us to acclimatise but there was one guy who came down with heat stroke on the second day and it was so bad he had to be taken to hospital," McCallum said.
The Australian team, known as the Auroras, competed in a wide range of age categories. At the team dinner on the third night the youngest was announced as a 12-year-old boy with the oldest being a 72-year-old man.
"There are very few sports were you can go on to perform at world level and compete within your own age category," McCallum said of her experience.
"But it made me realise I was nowhere near my peak, not as strong as I can be. I've definitely got another Auroras campaign in me," she said.