ICF announces 2004 Whitewater Slalom Countries June 18, 2004

Cathy Hearn images on the road to the 2004 Olympic Games

ICF announces Final Olympic Whitewater Course Configuration H2O Video & Obstacles Video


Italian Coach Cathy Hearn comments on the 2004 Athens Olympic Course

 June 10th ~


Here in Athens, it is almost always sunny and warm.  Most of the time, there is a nice breeze coming off the Saronic Gulf, making the environment really quite delightful.  Not really tropical, rather, Mediterranean.  Imagine, that, since it actually is part of the Mediterranean.


During the first week of this training block, it was quite quiet, since most of the Euros were in Skopje, Macedonia, racing in the European Championships.  Some countries elected to send their Olympic boats here to train while their B-Teams or A-list non-Olympic boats went to Skopje. 


Now in the second week of the first training block, there are more athletes here from more countries.  Some nations will arrive for the second block, with this time used for base training in preparation for their second peak of the year (the first being for their national selections or the Olympic selection.)  Others are conserving their travel time, energy or money, or are putting off their Athens-course training for other reasons.

The course configuration here should be finalized by June 14.  Now it is in yet another incarnation, with some small changes in the last few days.  The rate of change has slowed from the frantic pace of the week post-World Cup (when changes were being made between morning and afternoon workouts, and then again in the evening or early morning).  Each time something is changed, even something very small, it has an effect on other sections of the course, sometimes very large changes relative to the obstacle changed.  It makes for a situation more like a natural river, where a change in water level, or the natural movement of some sediment or boulders can completely change the nature of a whole section of river.  It becomes clear that some athletes have better adaptation skills than others, and also better skills of observation.  Probably it is good that logjams or other dangers are unlikely to occur here.

The mood of the training is relatively calm, day-to-day training, but with intense focus.  The athletes are in the phase of trying to learn as much as possible about the course and to gain an idea of what is fast here.  Naturally, they are pushing the limits, and sometimes they crash.  Pretty much each session, there is someone who gets worked in a hole, or pitons an obstacle really powerfully, breaks a boat or loses a paddle.  Sometimes more than one of these things occurs in one episode, and then we always hope that one of the many video cameras captures the action.

The course is intense, and pretty tiring to work on twice a day.  The basic configuration now features very fast water, good eddies, strong holes and some nice waves.  It is a serious stretch of water, but also one, which provides good help if you approach it intelligently.  Of course, that is always the challenge in whitewater.

Construction continues, mostly in the form of landscaping and excavating in order to retrofit something or repair of poor quality concrete.  The landscaping is pretty nice; one feature is really thick green grass, which now is long and lush in most places.  Additionally, they have planted succulent anenomes which erupt as most fantastic purple blooms with brilliant yellow centers on the steeper slopes around the course.


For more check out Cathy Hearn's Olympic Preview.

 An interview with Pablo McCandless also has more on the Olympic course.


April 28th ~


Here in Athens the course is changing every day or even every half day as they move the obstacles around and let the athletes probe the depths.  Some is entertaining, some is really enjoyable and some is just brutal.  Anyhow, the course is always challenging and the athletes are paddling well, if sometimes a little disoriented.  Everyone is amazed at the big changes that are wrought by moving little obstacles, and at the far-reaching nature of the changes, both up and down the course from the moved obstacle.


May 1st ~

Tomorrow we wrap up the training block here in Athens, with a new river each day after the World Cup as they move obstacles around trying to create the ultimate slalom river.   I got to paddle on it the other day.  It has the most fantastic ocean feel in a river-- the features are somewhat soft while at the same time being very powerful and some of them very weird, like the Potomac in flood.  We all had a big celebratory moment the other day when the obstacle movement resulted in nice wave-holes in a couple of places including the biggest gnarliest drop (which previously had been characterized by a very vertical punchy hole which was difficult to jump well).



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