Whitewater Slalom World Championships

Penrith Whitewater Stadium, Australia

September 29-October 3, 2005

What's Happening Down Under?


These updates courtesy USA Coach Cathy Hearn:


September 29 ~


Extremely strong winds today have resulted in postponement of the C1 and K1W Qualification races.  Qualification races for C1 and K1W will be held tomorrow (Friday) morning, beginning at 7:30 Sydney time.  Qualification races for K1 and C2 will be held tomorrow afternoon.
We began our day in the USA C1 house under sunny skies and gusty winds. With departure scheduled for 8 am, we had a relaxed breakfast and were able to wake up easily before traveling the 10' by car to the course.  By the time we arrived at the slalom venue, the wind was howling and we could see breaking waves running the length of the warmup lake.  Austin Crane and I walked the course as planned, formulating a strategy for navigation of each gate based upon its range of swing due to wind.  Only one gate was clearly un-navigable most of the time, Gate 1.  With each gust, this downstream gate would be pushed up and over the set of obstacles defining the drop, making it impossible to navigate.  Consultation with Benn Fraker and Jeff Larimer reinforced the plan that Austin had forged.  All three athletes were positive and creative in adjusting their race plans for the new conditions.
After Jeff got on the water for his warmup, we learned that the Team Leaders from all nations had gathered to discuss the extreme conditions and to formulate their own strategy for running a successful World Championships. Word came out of that meeting of a start delay until at least 1:30 pm, to be confirmed at a second gathering of Team Leaders at 11:45.  We headed home where the guys played cards, ate and lounged in our comfortable living room.  Each lull in the wind was followed by a renewal of blustery
At about noon, USA Team Leader Angela Lokken phoned to give us the news of cancellation of today's races.  The word of a rescheduling to kick off with the Team Leaders' meeting at 6:30 tomorrow morning was greeted by unanimous moans, balanced with the hope for calm conditions.

September 27 ~


We are into the home stretch here in Penrith.  Opening ceremonies will be held this evening, and we are hoping for the clouds to clear out so that we can enjoy the stars as well as the pompom girls and marching bands.
Teams are making the most of their last water session today.  The Chinese arrived yesterday, and had two athletes training with us on the course this morning at 7:00.  Rumor has it that they had their domestic "Olympics" over the weekend, an event awarding apartments and big money to the winners.
Yesterday I tried to write you all from one of the computers in the café at the course.  I sat first next to Daniele Molmenti (ITA) who was showing his website and its link to the Ducati website to a K1W from St Petersburg, Russia.  A few minutes later, Pierpaolo Ferrazzi took over the computer to communicate with his wife, daughter and new baby boy.  Athletes from the Developing Nations training block shared stories, technical conversation and lunch in many languages in the shade.  This group encompasses at least 20 different nations, including a guy from Lebanon, a woman from Myanmar, 2 guys from India who tried a wet exit from C2 in the finish pool on Saturday, Pablo from Chile, and many more.  I am impressed to see their paddling and enthusiasm progress each day.  They are being coached and supported by a group of mostly Australian athletes, including Mia Farrance and Justin Boocock, among others.
Our US athletes have been resting up, putting in high-quality training sessions and watching movies to avoid boredom in the days leading up to the competition.  They are looking good on the course, demonstrating technical expertise, impressive boat speed and control, and occasionally throwing in a few tricks such as kickflips on the big wave after the start straightaway.


September 15 ~


Here in Oz it is now sunny and warmer, with clear night skies and bright stars and a shallow dish of a moon.
Training is going well, with Scott Mann and Jeff Larimer arriving just two days ago.  The course has undergone some changes since 2000, and has some new, challenging holes packed tightly together to test the syncopation skills in everyone's paddling.


The Euros are rolling in now.  Buses and vans of sleepy athletes and loads of gear arriving each day, hopefully including everything they need to paddle well and stay warm.
This afternoon I had the pleasure of watching, from across the river, Papa Martikan coaching Slafkovsky and Mincik in one of the new, technical sections of the course.  (Martikan Jr is not here yet).  Coach Martikan was trying to get Mincik to do a hole move on a cross, a situation where Michal would delicately dip the cross while doing great work with hips and torso to get the job done.  I realized as I watched the coach's instructions to the athlete just what he was proposing.  It occurred to me that I could not imagine Mincik doing the move that way, and that I have never seen him use that stroke solution as a plan in that type of move.  Mincik had some words with Coach Martikan and pushed off and down the drop.  Sure enough, he dipped the cross, but that was the extent of it. He blew by the move, shook his head, looked at the coach, carried back up to the start and did it the Mincik way, on the on side, brilliantly, with great body and hull work.
It is interesting to see the strategy of various coaches in these early days on the course.  All of the European and North American athletes have traveled many hours to be here, and have undergone a huge time change.  Some teams lay low for the first few days, evidently having read the research which indicates that you should minimize the stresses on the body and mind by backing off on training while you are adjusting to other stresses (time change, lack of sleep, long air travel, climate/season change).  Other teams arrived yesterday and did three sessions on the water today.  I can only speculate on their logic (the athletes will adjust more easily to the new time zone if they are exhausted, the physical activity during daylight hours stimulates your adjustment to the local time, the training will help to keep them warm in these cold, windy conditions, the athletes just had 2 days of rest as seated  immobilization and gentle oscillation while sitting on the plane?)
Our US athletes are doing well, having made great gains in learning the water and appropriate technique for a plethora of moves on the course.  They are currently resting, cooking dinner, and enjoying vigorous massage in preparation for a full day off tomorrow.  We are planning a trip to the wildlife park (where we will view and possibly touch vicious koalas and Tasmanian devils) and a fondue dinner at the Swiss Chalet in Katoomba.

September 2 ~


All is well here in Penrith, Australia.  It is spring, with fruit trees beginning to bloom in contrast to the eternal jungle appearance of the tropical plants.  The sulfur-crested cockatoos are feisty and loud, dive-bombing each other in complex dip and dive, barrel-rolling formations.  Baby kangaroos reach out from mama's pouch to snack on new grass.

We've had a mix of clouds and sun, cool temps and cold nights.  The course has changed a bit since Brett and I were here last (Jan-Feb 2004), with more holes and breaking waves, a steeper start drop and more of a glassy wave at the last drop.

Athletes Brett Heyl, Scott Parsons and Jamie Tidmore are settling into the training routine.  Having avoided naps during the first three days, they are overcoming jet lag well and now are beginning to do two water sessions per day.  A few international athletes are here at this early stage. The Oblingers (AUT), Stepanka Hilgertova (CZE), one Japanese girl, Stu Mac (GBR) and Heather Jull (NZL) are here for long-term training. Additional athletes from New Zealand are over for the weekend, having made the short hop (with free boat transport) on Air New Zealand on other weekends as well.


  We expect next week to remain relatively quiet, affording the opportunity for some great training, with most European teams arriving throughout the week of September 12-18.


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