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 Canoeing in Western Australia

Schools, Nationals and Youth Olympics - A Mum's Perspective!

by Sandy Maley

 Okay step one achieved. -We have flights for Emma Lefroy, Kirsten Maley and Robin Jeffery. Even better the costs are covered by the illusive Youth Olympics. Paddling the Penrith course has nothing on the complexities of getting there! Many thanks to the wonderfully helpful staff at Ansett who held bookings way past their deadlines while our paddling communication lines broke down at all levels. Special thanks to the cargo staff who transported the boats for a nominal $20 ("No kids that does not mean a boats worth of space to cram extra luggage into!!") Even when all tickets were paid for we still had a final dramatic operation to retrieve them from Justin's desk the day before Emma's flight. Okay Justin you were getting married and all ended well so you're forgiven.

Finally I also arrive in Penrith to be met by Kynan with my old car ready for me to take Kirsty and Robin to Eildon next day. "Err well Mum, its sort of making pinging noises." Great just what I need. A quick look under the bonnet and well, who wouldn't be making a few groans if they were trying to operate on a few millimeters of lubricant.

Next day we do set off after an early morning training session at the Penrith. Robbie and Kirsten still look a little tentative but are paddling really well. Then Robbie throws in a capsize in the biggest part of the course to get my adrenalin going. Not a problem, he coolly rolls up and carries on. Fun they reckon-its fast furious and punishing from my perspective. A view that was confirmed a couple of weeks later when I finally got to paddle it with Mike Collister in one of those big new state of the art, rubbery C2's. Fortunately Kynan's camera ran out of film as we went for the second capsize so all you are going to see is us surfing the big wave.

The car did get to Eildon, albeit at 11pm and we woke to the deceptively gentle rapids of the Goulbourn River in Eildon, Victoria. (The car had oil and the leak was fixed so it contented itself with a little overheating in the late afternoon.). Other paddlers were found, the kids went training and in Kirsten's case socializing, and I went walking. Gradually our WA paddlers arrived. Emma Lefroy and Ben Jones from a rock smashing Down River race joined us in time for New Years eve. Kynan and a multinational assortment of paddlers arrived by mini bus late on the 1st and Hew and Scotty were kindly collected form Melbourne airport on the 2nd.by Ben. Robin Bell kept to form and arrived on the 3rd,with Mike Collister and Kim Innes, just as demo runs for the next days selection race started. Felt like old times with 11 paddlers from WA and one Mum come, team manager to put in late entries and corrections, sort bibs, fuss over who needed help when, take photos and of course attend those very important meetings.

The competitions. First the schools off to a late start on New Years Day. Robbie and Kirsten were great. Robbie flew down the course winning all his races 13yrs K1, 13yrs C1 and 13 yrs DR K1 to deservedly pick up the Junior Boys Trophy. Kirsten was having a good first run in K1 but a bit of her body just slid through an upstream gate the wrong way before she whipped round to pin it nicely. This 50 (rules are now changed and you only have to get the head through the gate) put her way back but an even better second run saw her in 3rd place. C1 must be a natural class for Western Australia as she also easily took first in this. Such a pity we can never join in the C2s or teams events as our paddlers are always from different schools. We also need MORE JUNIORS!!!

Next the selection race on a much more demanding course set by Richard Fox. WA kept up its C1 dominance with Robin 1st, Kynan 2nd and Hew just slipping to 4th on his first real white water in ages. Not to be outdone Emma really excelled tearing down the course and coming 4th just behind Danielle 1st, Mia Farrance 2nd and Lauren Sykes 3rd. Competition was intense and although no one else collected a medal all did well. Ben Jones tore down but occasionally forgot it was slalom and not DR so his penalty tally was pretty impressive. Most penalties for the day probably went to Kim who somehow managed to not only complete the course but get most gates on the way. Not bad with no practice on the course and her only previous race being at Walyunga. Her close inspection of the course from an underwater perspective must have paid off as by the end of the competitions she was paddling like an expert.

Next day the Nationals started on a straight forward course with a few nasty staggers at the end that caught anyone who relaxed at all. Once again WA did well. I think we managed 1st in all the C1 classes we entered with Robin, Kynan and Kirsten getting gold and Hew picking up a silver. Then Robin, Kynan and Hew weaved their way to a win in C1 teams. In mens kayak Robbie once again won gold in 14yrs. In open places 1, 3,4&5 were claimed by overseas paddlers with Kynan 6th. In ladies Kayak Emma came 3rd in U 22's and Kirsten now in under 18s came 5th. Unfortunately Scott did not race as well as he can but still managed 14th in a large field. Mike slipped back into his easy flowing style and with no racing or training for a couple of years came 11th while Ben continued to be frustrated by those dam gates!. In the best class of all-C2- we also had our share of glory. Hew and Kynan ­despite a shockingly messy second run ­came 2nd in mixed C2 with the Robin's, Bell and Jeffery getting a 5th in a boat that for some reason kept trying to do tail stands. Kynan and Kirsten, with another gate slapping second run, came second in the open C2 being beaten by Miriam Fox and Lachlan Milne and just beating Daniel Woodward and C2 paddler Andy Farrance.

Such success of course deserved celebrating and since I was the only oldie at our end of the camp that's were the party happened. Victoria, Tasy, NSW, New Zealand, USA and assorted others all filed in. Robbie by virtue of his tent being pitched dead center of party land now learned about the Apre Slalom set. I sat and gazed at the moonlit river occasionally being distracted by such things as: Lines of racing paddlers-who had mislaid their clothes. (Must have been Victorians.) and a crazy group who decided the rapids would be more fun by moonlight. At least one had to be semi sober to actually locate and get into ones boat so only a few boats got damaged not the paddlers. Next morning I woke to ---a totally clean and very quiet camp. Yep all traces of the previous night were neatly piled in and next to the bins and not a paddler was stirring. Well done guys.

Kynan's car now had the task of carrying myself, our three Youth Olympic paddlers and NSW junior and paddler extraordinaire Kate Lawrence, to Sydney next morning. All other paddlers were heading to Melbourne for the grand daddy of parties at Ben Patricks. As the car had already over heated on the way down and in protest refused to start on several occasions while at Eildon I was a little tentative about this trip on a 40 degree day. However we made it but definitely not in record time as anything over 90km/hr resulted in an immediate move of the gauge to the red. In fact we were so slow the party group arrived just after us about 11 pm. Kynan walked in looking extremely sheepish and sporting a very well bandaged hand. Something about 20 people in a spa, being crowd surfed and hmm!!. Luckily Mike was there fresh from a wilderness first aid course and ever considerate he bundled Kynan off to hospital before trying to outdo him by walking into, and shattering a glass door. There are more stories but I think you should contact those involved directly for a properly distorted view.

At this point I bowed out as the Youth Olympics took our kids and did all the Mum tasks for me. All I had to do was watch the brilliant opening ceremony. and do a bit of judging between watching our paddlers fly by. Mixed fortunes here. Emma, who had every chance of winning had a really bad couple of days. Kirsten starred in the qualifying runs coming 3rd, got rewarded by being drug tested but then couldn't quite keep it going on day 2 and finished 7th. Robbie was the youngest there and as usual paddled well and finished in the middle of the field. The star paddler was Kate Lawrence from NSW who was consistently first in every run and deservedly got gold in ladies K1.

Not a totally relaxing holiday but it was a privilege to be part of such a great group of young people. Several times I was asked how Western Australia managed to turn out such good paddlers with so little white water. I think there are two main reasons. Firstly you have to be really keen to keep paddling and to actually get to the competitions. Secondly we have a great coach ­ thanks Zlatan from myself and all the paddlers you helped.

Finally best of luck to Emma, Kirsten, Robin, Kynan, Hew and Ben in the next two selection races in Penrith Feb 17 &18.

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