Sprinting and slaloming to the Olympics

For the Olympic disciplines of Canoe slalom and Canoe sprint, Australia hosted a total of four big competition events in the lead up to the London Olympics: National Championships and Oceania Championships. The last event, Canoe sprint nationals, just finished and what an incredible week full of fast racing it was yet again.

Australian athletes, ranging from junior to elite levels, and many international athletes participated in a showdown at these events. While Australian juniors aimed for a spot on the junior teams, the Olympic hopefuls raced for the dream to represent their country at the 2012 Olympics. Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji and the Cook Islands were among the more exotic nations represented. Since Sydney is a major training hub for Canoe slalom athletes during the northern hemisphere’s winter, the Penrith Whitewater Stadium was full of French, Germans, Americans, British, Czech, Slovak and Russian athletes, among many other countries.

Olympic year

This year obviously brings extra excitement to the events and the paddling community as much is at stake now and over the months ahead. These events in Australia are the season’s kick-off on the road to selection for the Olympics and hopefully podium finishes, earning much coveted medals. The Olympics represent the pinnacle of sport and achievement, with worldwide exposure and history-making fame and glory in sight.

Although the Olympics is the dream platform, it does not necessarily fully represent the individual sports. One reason for this is that due to quota requirements not all the best athletes in the sport can compete at the Olympics. Some countries for instance have several top performing athletes placed high in the world rankings but only one can go per country. Benefit is that countries where the sport is in development have a higher chance to send their athletes. Another reason is that gender equality at the Olympics is still in need of improvement. So for example the Olympic program includes less women’s disciplines or distances while the individual sport’s competitions does include them, thus there are actually more women out on the water than at the Olympics.

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Organisation, preparation, friendship

Striking is the amount of organisation and preparation that go into great performances. They do not take shape over night but take years of finding, building and creating. Technique, power, health, consistency, mental strength and agility are important components. Surrounding the athletes is a large important support network, from family and friends to physicians and coaches to organising bodies such as federations. Also great to see camaraderie between athletes who often know each other for years, developing together from junior to senior levels, traveling and competing globally. Interestingly, mates are competitors at the same time so yes, there is a way for friendly competitiveness. However, as in life, naturally not everyone gets along or is friends with everyone.

Winning and losing

Part of sport is winning and losing. Sport is ultimately a benchmark, comparing someone’s or a team’s performance to competitor’s performances. For Olympic canoeing, the fastest performance wins. It is that simple. But considering everything it takes to win, it is not that simple. Perhaps this is why a global audience unites watching the Olympic stage. People want to see winners and losers. Winners are attractive to see and hear since they are happy, their hard work paid off and their excellent performers. There is something about everything coming together and great performances are just beautiful, exhilarating, emotional and often breath-taking. Losers are also attractive to see and hear since their hard work did not pay off at that point but we still love them and we feel for them. At least they did it and failed but there is probably another chance next time.

You play, you win.
You play, you lose.
You play.
- Jeanette Winterson in her brilliant book “The Passion

Media action

Sportscene was on-site at the canoeing events with selected videos and interviews below. Note that the selected photos in the slide show above were all taken at the Sprint nationals only. Newspapers, other media, stakeholders, and importantly canoeing fans used and benefited from all the content in various ways, which is fantastic. Immersion in these events was a privilege and honour and a sheer joy being part of the action.

Related posts on this website
• Sports moments of beauty
• Australian Canoe Sprint road to London continues
• 2011 Canoe Slalom World Championships – Bratislava
• 2011 Canoe Sprint World Championships – Szeged

Related links elsewhere
• Big hopes for new duo – Manly Daily
• AC National Sprint Championships – Sunday Senior Results Wrap UpAustralian Canoeing website
• Young guns win on bumper final day - Australian Olympic Team website
• Video list Australian Canoeing – videos with race footage and interviews, Australian Canoeing on YouTube 

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