Pyro Paddlers set Chicago River on fire in Chinatown race

2015 Dragon Boat Race

UIC’s Pyro Paddlers race to sixth place out of 30 competitors at the 15th annual Chinatown Dragon Boat Race for Literacy June 13. Photo: Timothy Nguyen


Forget football. How many universities have a dragon boat racing team?

UIC’s Pyro Paddlers raced their way into the top 10 June 27 at the 15th annual Chinatown Dragon Boat Race for Literacy in Ping Tom Memorial Park.

The team row, row, rowed its boat so quickly, it placed sixth out of 30 competitors.

“Every year it’s harder and harder to place at all, so to get in the top eight, and then to actually earn sixth place is very impressive,” said Jenny Korn, co-captain of the Pyro Paddlers and doctoral candidate in communication and gender women’s studies.

The dragon boat team has 39 members on the roster, all UIC students, staff, faculty or alumni, with a team of 18 paddlers, a flag puller and a drummer for each race. The team is supported by the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center and the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Asian Americans.

This is the sixth year the Pyro Paddlers have participated in the Chinatown event.

This year’s race was a close one. UIC paddled past the AT&T APCA Dragons with five seconds to spare in the first single heat elimination and defeated the TAP Chicago Typhoon by three seconds in the second single heat elimination.


UIC Pyro Paddlers, Dragon Boat Races

The Pyro Paddlers, happy with their sixth-place finish. Photo: Timothy Nguyen

Then the Grainger Dragons stole their fire, beating the Pyro Paddlers by four seconds in the quarterfinals before going on to win second place.

“This year we were able to hold strategic practices,” Korn said of the team’s success. “The synchronization from those practices was evident in our improved performance.”

The UIC paddlers placed third in the June 13 St. Charles RiverFest.

“I’m proud of our team’s performance,” Korn said.

All proceeds from the Chinatown event were donated to local literacy, cultural and diversity programs and organizations.


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