BOZEMAN – The sport of dragon boating has been around for more than 5,000 years, but for the Bozeman Vikings, it only took them five years to become one of the best teams in the world.

They recently returned from an international competition in Taiwan, where they placed fifth out of 23 teams. But just by their appearance, their opponents are fooled.

“We are a slightly more senior team — our average age is probably 56 — so people don’t expect much from us,” said Vikings coach Lisa Duetsch.

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But once their paddles hit the water, they fly.

“We had some tough competition from Sweden and Slovakia and we are right in there for Bozeman, for a small club. We’re pretty competitive for a bunch of old folks,” said Russell Tuckerman, the Vikings’ steerer.

But for the Vikings, being one of the best teams on the planet isn’t always what drives them. It’s the people in the boat paddling beside them.

“It’s part of a big family, but I think we are a pretty functional family. Each one has a big personality,” said Brigitte Schulze, a paddler for the Vikings. “We all help each other out in our other lives besides being Vikings, so I love my team members.”

And even when the competition is fierce, the sport brings these Montanans closer to people halfway across the globe.

“We made friends from all over the world. We have invitations to race all over the world. And I’m just really proud of our team’s performance,” said Duetsch.

And teams from all over recognized that performance, as well. Much like in other sports, trading jerseys after a game or competition is a tradition in dragon boating. And people can’t wait to get their hands on a Vikings jersey.

“The honor of trading shirts after a race is always fun and our shirts are in high demand,” said Tuckerman. “So it’s kind of cool after the race that they want your shirts.”

The Bozeman Vikings just wrapped up their season, but they are excited to come back even better next May when they start practicing again. And when they do, they’re going to need a lot more shirts to trade away.

The Vikings are always looking for new members to join their team and you can connect with them here.