Judith Hakim: Passionate Paddler
BY MA. VANESSA L. ESTINOZO
Dragon Boat is often associated as a men’s sport, but the need for strong back muscles and a sturdy hand grip of men can even be outdone by women. With a combination of strength of mind and persistence to train anyone can be a paddler. Now, competing internationally, men and women’s team race it out hand-in-hand to make the dragon roar with pride.
And by anyone, we mean even a banker like Judith Hakim.
She once worked for a bank and was at an officemate’s house preparing their way to a festival in Batangas when she came across a magazine urging people to write about an adventure with their friends.
As an avid reader herself and hobby writer, Judith sent her article and got published later on. But her paddling journey started when she read an article encouraging female from all ages to try out dragon boat.
Curiosity drove Judith to inquire and compete in Hong Kong a year later where she and her team won the gold medal.
Judith started out as a paddler, moved up to be the secretary-general of the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation in 2004 and has become one of the four Filipinos to be have an international licensed umpire officiating races here and abroad.
Judith grew up in Bataan, surrounded by water, with a bright personality and a vibrant character ready to paddle her heart out.
“Water is your element because it feels good to have a sport close to water, I think,” she says.
She goes through her week wearing different hats a day. Sometimes she’s the mom of three little kids, a wife to a coach and athlete, Suhod Hakim, and goes back to her roots of being a paddler during trainings.
She gives utmost importance to having a balanced meal and healthy body that complement on motherhood and being an athlete. For Judith, an athlete must have a sunny and positive attitude and is easy to get along with.
“You can’t afford to be sick and weak. You can’t be an athlete,” she quips. “When you come to training you should contribute something. You should not be a burden on the boat. You should carry your weight; compensate it in your paddling.”
From being a banker for 12 years to being a paddler, Judith believes everything happening in our lives depends on how one sees it from one window to another.
Nothing could stop Judith from doing what she loves, even when pregnant with her second child, she competed as a drummer in Boracay and moved to Malaysia and Indonesia as the reserved athlete, and with the third child, she officiated a world club race in Macau.
Once a paddler, always a paddler, she says, “As long as there is a boat, as long as there is sea, there is dragon boat. Don’t expect to be under the shade when you want to be a part of dragon boat team. Say goodbye to your fair skin because when on your boat all that matters is finishing the race in a snap of a finger.”
Paddling with pride
For Judith, being a member of the dragon boat team is already like serving the country, because through this, one becomes an ambassador of the country.
In one boat everything counts and everything matters. She shared how losing a millisecond means someone had a little mistake, didn’t paddle enough, or the steersman got astray for a while.
The crucial parts in forming a dragon boat team are the drummer and the steersman. A drummer and a steersman usually consist of veterans from the team like assistant coaches.
Like any other championship, it was not an overnight success. She remembered very clearly when she was with the national men’s team and she was the secretary-general of the federation and team manager as well. They were among the team that used the locally made paddles of China and they were in the championship in Shanghai.
“We were against US, Germany, UK, and Poland, their paddles are carbon fiber, it’s like they’re not holding anything, but we managed a silver. In 2003, we were able to get, finally, our first gold medal in the SEA Games which was in the men’s team.”
The boat runs on speed, power, and trust. One’s mind and heart are all that fuels the drive to win. To be a paddler, one has to earn his slot and have full trust to his teammates.
“In the Philippines, despite all the obstacles encountered, we fight. Filipinos are willing to take a leave from work just to represent our country in international races,” Judith shares.
Lack of funds did not hold them back from achieving countless medals, awards, and even world records, “its life changing!” she would say.
Dragon boat sport knows no age, gender, or financial status. “Don’t think that because you’re a woman, you’re less stronger. Don’t get intimidated,” Judith shares with pride.