With the first leg of selections done and dusted. I needed to put down some solid runs at the open if I wanted to have any chance of making team this year.
Coming in to the first day I felt confident yet nervous as this would be the first year I really could consider myself even remotely competitive. After finishing my first run I was pumped full of confidence, I had put down a decent run on a course that featured familiar and unfamiliar moves but my many touches had meant that i had dropped down the list. I was sitting 35th and with only 30 going through to semis i had hope. I knew what i had to do to make semis and was eager to get back on the water.
But plans don’t always go to plan and instead of putting down the run I needed, my second run deteriorated and I was left with another poor run.
Fortunately my weekend was not over with an invitational semi-final, i had a chance for some sort of redemption. With all Australians being included into the run I had a chance to get out of the boat before my run and watch the first few boats. With this chance to relax and not overthink things I felt in control as I got back into the boat and paddled to the start box.
With the course consisting of technical moves from the start, I decided to paddle as smoothly as I could and build into my run. With this in mind I crossed the line and had one of my best runs despite lacking intensity and being off line in some sections. A great win amongst the losses.
Racing my first Oceania Championships, we flew to Auckland where the Oceania champs were to be raced. This was the first time that the race had been held here and it was going to be something unique as this was also the first time to Vector Wero for many. The brand new course had only opened a few months prior and was something so different to many other courses i had been to.
Being both modern and full on, this course was incredibly foreign to myself and took a few sessions to get use to. Often feeling like groundhog day going around the symmetrical course, I began to get the hang of things and once i did this course was awesome, despite the poles often being at 45 degrees.
Off the water we stayed at a small farm house 20 minutes up the road from the course and while the house was in the middle of renovations it was a fantastic find as between games of Cludeo, Soccer and feeding the cows this was a perfect place between sessions to stay.
We trained Sunday through to Friday each day getting more and more confident with the moves and features of the course. This was going to be the first of the 2017 Selection events and as such everyone was going to be pushing themselves to get of to a good start in trying to make the team.
Coming up to race day I was pumped to put my weeks work to the test. My heats run was rocky as I was slightly off my lines the whole way down meaning I picked up a collection of gates on my way down. Finishing with 10 secs of penalties, I waited for the results to be published before i got dry, as 5 touches I doubted i had done enough to qualify on first runs. However 10 minutes later i was relieved when I saw that I had made it through to semi finals.
Coming into the semi-finals i looked to improve on my positioning as with both touches and being off line I felt I had plenty I could improve on from the heats. Unfortunately my luck didn’t change and i wasn’t able to improve, finishing my Oceania Champs in 20th.
Pumped for what would be my third Nationals and first on the Penrith course, I was excited to finally be able to showcase my development over the past year against others. Racing both C1 and K1 and having a good laugh along the way, I was able to put down solid runs in each earning respectable results in each.
In the K1 I took the only advantage I had, having a smaller boat, I swept my way into 12th place overall. Hitting the bottom of the concrete chanel on multiple occasions, I had a blast paddling carefree down the raging rapids.
In the C1, the focus was back on as I put down two solid runs putting me into 10th and into the finals despite having multiple touches on both runs and minor whiplash. From there I looked forward to the finals and teams run that would conclude the nationals but first we held the interstate Kris Kringle.
Not having the greatest of runs because of touches and being off line, I couldn’t improve on my poll and finished 10th. But with an all-star team for the C1 teams event things looked up, and after a last second diverted disaster involving Christians head and the nose of my boat, we slid into second just behind the guys from Western Australia. Ending what was once again a fantastic Nationals.
We arrived to the slalom rapids just out of Eildon (Victoria, Australia) a mere day and a half after Christmas, to low water levels with little promise of improvement. Getting in a few practice sprint runs in both the C2 and K1 we felt confident with our lines as they hadn’t changed much since the State Championships a few weeks ago. We were ready for the week of intense racing ahead. Spending the remainder of the afternoon catching up with those athletes from interstate, we began to prepare for the following days races.
Day 1 – Southern Cup Sprint
The first event in our big week was the long sprint, for many of us this was a shock to the system as we had to push ourselves almost double the distance of a regular sprint. K1 was up first and while I felt somewhat confident, I was still nervous for the internal race that was the wild water u23 and senior team selection. Pulling out two quick runs in both the K1 and C2 we were able to take the podium in both classes, coming first in the u23 K1 and C2.
Day 2 – Southern Cup Classic
With the first wins for the week and knowing we could be quicker in the c2 on the longer distanced classic we felt confident coming into the second race. However our bubble was quickly burst when we soon discovered that the course we were about to race was uncharted territory. By the end of my K1 runK1 i felt the full force of having just raced for 10 minutes and the sudden realisation of having to do it all again in the C2. Needless to say I was very sore by the end of the day but with yet win it was all worth it.
Day 3 – Australian Wild Water Championship sprint
With today being the first day of nationals the stakes rose to a new level as by the end of the day the national champion for sprint would be announced! Finishing my runs I felt very relieved as I had qualified as the first boat for the U23 World championship Team. This was my first national team in the sport and I am greatly looking forward to racing against the worlds best, representing my country. However not qualifying in the C2 today meant that I will have to do it on the last day on the National Classic.
Day 4 – Australian Wild Water Championship Classic
Entering the final day to qualify the C2 we arrived to the start line focused, despite not being able to see anything through the thick fog. Having qualified in the K1 the day before I didn’t race to be able to put my entire focus into the C2. We were one of the first boats of the line and as such the fog was still sitting low over the water as we took off. It must have been the hardest classic I’ve done as we pushed this heavy out of date C2 down the river not knowing which way to turn in the thick fog. Once finished we waited nervously at the bottom for percentage to be calculated, but at last the results were in and we had made the time. Just like that the Lachlan and I were off to Austria!