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Iraqi Rowing Team trains in America

By Whitney Hurst, CNN
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Iraqi rowing team comes to the U.S.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Iraqi National Rowing Team has come to Boston to train
  • The rowers have met American military veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars
  • They'll compete in a Boston regatta Sunday and in the Asian Games in China next month
RELATED TOPICS
  • Iraq
  • Rowing
  • Boston

Boston, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Boston, the city that gave rise to the American Revolution, is now playing host to the Iraqi National Rowing Team.

The rowers traveled to the United States to train for the approaching Asian Games. And on Sunday, the team will compete in the world's largest two-day rowing competition, the Head of the Charles Regatta.

While in Boston, the Iraqis have had an opportunity to meet with American military veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. They even gave the veterans a bit of training in rowing at the Community Rowing Boathouse. Then the Americans and the Iraqis formed combined teams and went out on the water for a best-two-out-of-three competition.

But competition wasn't what the races last Sunday were about. Iraqi rower and team captain Haidar Nozad said afterward, "We had fun together, and we met some nice people."

It hasn't always been easy for this team. The Iraqis have been training on the turbulent waters of the Tigris River in Baghdad, where conditions aren't so favorable. "Sometimes it's dangerous," Nozad said, but he added that things have been improving in the past two years.

After seeing the Iraqis in action on the water, Bruce Estok, a U.S. Army engineer, said they have a good chance in this weekend's race.

"They are going to be contenders for the top of that race," he said. "They were very proficient, and we sure learned a lot from them."

This is exactly what Bruce Smith, executive director of the Community Rowing House, hoped both sides would get out of the rowing exercises. Smith said the meeting was bigger than just rowing.

"These guys are over here learning to do an Olympic sport," he said. "That's what the Olympics are for, and that's why people should care, because it is the most exciting thing happening in the United States today -- that Iraqis and Americans are out together on the water."

Nozad and his teammates hope they can translate their rigorous training into success at the Asian Games, to be held in China next month. "We like to get a medal to make our people happy you know," he said. "It's very important for us to get that."