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The Walter Times

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Brinn in the Boat : Leaving a Legacy

Brinn Marks showing off her win! Gold for Team USA Dragon Boating.

At six years old, Brinn Marks, a current 12th grader, had a dream. After seeing the British Olympics’ opening scene, Brinn realized she wanted to be part of a sport at the highest level possible. During her freshman year, her mother suggested dragon boating, a sport she was not interested in at first. Still wanting to participate in a sport, Brinn befriended a younger coach on the team, who later became her mentor. After three years of practice and time trials in various states across the country, she received an email at 7:30 in the morning that signified she had been accepted to compete on Team USA at the IDBF’s (International Dragon Boat Federation) 16th World Championships in Pattaya, Thailand. After accepting this opportunity, and experiencing sickness in the middle of the competition, she received six gold medals and one silver medal with the rest of her team. 

Brinn Marks and Team USA in the Dragon Boat championship in Thailand August 2023.

From the age of six years old, Brinn Marks, 12th grade, had a dream to participate in an Olympic-level sport. Her desire to compete was ignited when she watched the Opening Ceremony for the 2012 Summer Olympics, hosted in London, England. “Since my parents were runners, I took great interest in the track-and-field sports in the Olympics. I never really acknowledged the water sports of the Summer Olympics until later in life,” said Brinn.

Around the fall of her freshman year, after months of her mother begging her to join her in the sport, Brinn finally gave in and attended a practice with her. Initially, Brinn was hesitant about the pastime, as she always had her heart set on a single-person sport, but she kept going to practices just to make her mother happy. 

Eventually, in early spring, she began practicing more, and that was when she finally met a coach named Macy Dwyer. She was the youngest person on the team besides Brinn, and at 26 years old, she was looking for someone to mentor. She grew up as a sprint kayaker, eventually going to the Kayaking World Championships when she was 17 years old. Because of her wonderful experience in kayaking, she eventually moved to dragon boating for a break between competitions. As a coach on the team, she was looking to bring someone up the same way that she was taught.

Brinn expressed interest in her coaching style more than the rest of the adults on her team. She was more straightforward and expected nothing less than 100 percent effort, which made Brinn look up to her. During the spring of 2021, Macy proposed a dragon boating training camp up at Lake Lanier in Georgia, where she grew up. Lake Lanier had been the grounds for all of the water sports at the 1996 Summer Olympics, so the facilities were well-suited for a team. Out of 30+ teammates, Brinn was the only one who attended the camp alongside Macy.

Brinn Marks when she won a gold medal as a part of Team USA’s Dragon Boating team in Thailand, August 2023.

Although the camp was at the beginning of April, the temperatures were freezing. Brinn was still new to the sport, but her old coach from sprint kayaking was the one who was hosting. After gaining blisters on her hands and coming back to the hotel each day with ice in her hair, Brinn survived the week of camp. She made friends with a few of the teenagers and young adults from Lake Lanier who attended the dragon boating camp, and the head coach of Lanier’s team, Jim O’Dell (or Macy’s former coach) said he saw great potential in her. This motivation kept Brinn going.

Brinn participated in numerous races from then to 2023, eventually moving from the middle of the boat (a follower) to the front of the boat alongside Macy (a leader). This position was a bit nerve-wracking when she was first placed in it– up until this point she was perceived as “just a teenager” and had to follow all the rules the adults set in the boat. After all of her hard work and days spent in the gym, the coaches perceived Brinn as fit enough to lead the boat’s pace throughout races and take the team to gold medals. Brinn competed in two National Championships with her team, along with winning medals at most (if not all) of the races she attended.

Team USA dragon boating for the win! Thailand, August 2023

Brinn started a tradition with Macy during her first-ever race. After each race (both with medals and without), Brinn would take a selfie with her to commemorate the occasion. She didn’t realize it would turn into a real tradition, with her most recent picture being beside Macy in Thailand.

At the beginning of 2023, Macy introduced Brinn to a Zoom meeting that the Team USA coaches were holding to look for the team of that year. The IDBF was hosting the 16th World Championship in Pattaya, Thailand at the end of the summer. Brinn asked if Macy believed in her potential. She told her that all the work she had done over the course of three years would pay off no matter the outcome.

The Zoom meeting was a success, but Brinn was nervous after seeing 60+ teens and their families on the call. The coaches were serious, but she could tell that they were looking forward to training all of the young rowers. Brinn was one of only five kids on the East Coast trying out for the team, so she felt like an underdog.

The camps were hosted throughout the year in multiple states over two months: Florida (of course), New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, California, and Arizona. Brinn attended all of them. The coaches were planning to test them on an outrigger canoe (OC) so they could assess the competitors’ abilities. Since the OC is a single-person canoe, Brinn partially achieved her goal of competing in a single-person sport at a high level.

Brinn Marks with all of the friends she made while in Thailand for the Dragon Boating Competition as she represented Team USA.

April was when the official selection of the team would be made. Brinn made it to California, where the trials were held, consisting of a physical test with pull-ups, running, and a 400-meter time trial on an OC. Brinn had trained on an OC on her own lake for several months, which was only a small amount of time compared to the teens from California who had competed on an OC since they were single digits. After completing the three-day camp, Brinn came back to Florida with only a bit of hope. It was not until April 28th, 2023, that she woke up to find an announcement of the team. Brinn’s name was on it! She made it to Thailand. 

“There may be times when you reach your lowest point- when you feel as though your dream is unreachable. Don’t panic, this happens to all of us. Take a deep breath and keep your head held high. If your goal is always at the forefront of your mind, and your plan accordingly, there’s nothing you can’t achieve. Everything will fall directly into place,” said Brinn.

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About the Contributor
Layla Hubler
Layla Hubler, Senior Staff
Layla Hubler is a high school senior, and she is the Editor-in-Chief of the Lion's Pride Yearbook Team. She has been attending OSOTA for ten years, and loves reading, writing, and science. Layla hopes to pursue a career in STEM as an Astrophysicist.
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