“That was tough but i was in the best shape of my life,” said Chao, who grew up in Flushing, ”and it taught me that you can do so much more than you think.”
Even though it wasn’t easy to wake up while everyone else was still fast asleep, it instilled in her a deep appreciation for nature. She was there when the starry sky was enveloped by the vibrant sunrise; she saw lush green trees and mountains transformed into lifeless winter figures.
With her crew team she rowed through all seasons; even when it rained and snowed, her teammates and coach pushed her to keep rowing.
“The same people who pushed us through it were there to celebrate with us when we made it through to the end,” she said.
When Chao graduated, she joined the Metro Athletic Dragons (MAD), a dragon boat team that practices in the World’s Fair Marina in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
“Jogging alongside the waterfront, certain parts of the water would sometimes smell like rotten eggs,” she said of her jogging sessions for dragon boat practices.
Chao learned that the actual on-the-water workout was different, with dragon boat isolating your abdominal muscles, whereas crew involves using 80 percent legs, 20 percent upper body. She referred to the two as complementary sports because they focus on different areas of the body.
However, whatever their differences, both sports are about pushing yourself to beat out the competing teams.
“When you compete with your team (be it dragonboat or crew) and you catch up to boats or pass them, it’s a great feeling,” said Chao. “If you win a medal, it’s even better.”
The traveling is another perk. She’s only been with MAD for one season, but she’s already been to Boston, Ithaca, Montreal, and Hartford with her team.
“I recommend anyone to give being on the water a try,” said Chao. “There's something very serene about it and it's fun!”