Going Full Circle, 11 days to go – Rio Olympic Games, & some SurfSki updates

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In 11 days time, I will be attending my 3rd Olympic Games. I am super stoked to have come full circle, after competing in 2008 for South Africa in the Women’s K4 and K2 events (making the final in the K4) and then being in London with Bridgitte Hartley (my K2 partner from Beijing, I helped her by being a training partner in the lead-up to London 2012 where she medalled in the WK1 500m event) and now going into the Rio Olympics as Team USA Olympic Coach to my athlete, Maggie Hogan.

It’s kind of cool seeing the sport from so many different angles, and I am very excited about this next phase of my career. It’s 11 days until the opening ceremony, and we have a lot going on before then!

I was just in Portugal (possibly my favorite country!) I was just recovering from my jetlag (we were there in June for the 3rd Canoe Sprint World Cup – where Maggie got a silver medal in the 5k) and all of a sardine-tin found myself back on a plane heading across the globe.

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Maggie silver medal World cup 3 WK1 5000m (please note my Rio themed-board shorts!)

I can’t say I was upset at having to return to Portugal… Great wine, pastel de natas and cooking downwind! The Nelo Summer Challenge is one of the best events on the World Series, and is also an ICF World Cup race.

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Thanks Macca Hynard for the cool photo!

As usual, Andre, Marisa and all their team staff put on a spectacular event. The wind delivered and we had great conditions for racing.

Schoogirl error on my part cost me my 5th NSC title, as I casually jogged up to the finish line not realizing that Angie Mouden had caught up to me as I played it cautious through the surf zone. Great race Angie, and good to see some younger talent coming through.

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I managed to sneak a last-minute trip to Hood River for the Gorge Downwind Champs. Strangest thing, doing a downwind on a river! A lot of fun, and we caught a good day of cracking wind on Thursday and again on Saturday. Unfortunately race day (Friday) was pretty flat, and didn’t quite go how I would have liked. Teneale Hatton showed her strength on the flatwater to paddle away from the women’s field to take the win. Great to see so many good female paddlers from all over the world taking part (NZ, Australia, Spain and USA).

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Yes, those are Zebra print paddling pants! (Slipins)

The whole team behind the event, led by Energizer Bunny Carter Johnson, put on a great few days. Seamless downwinds with a daily, repeating shuttle, a beer garden, and great food all made for a fun break!

And now the countdown begins, we leave in a week, and I am very excited about being a part of one of the largest and most successful Olympic teams in the world. (Underneath my Team USA t-shirt my blood is green, and I am also super excited about seeing my other team mates go out and perform on the world’s greatest sporting stage!)

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Go Team USA & Team South Africa!

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North American Surfski Cup

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These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of travel!
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I left Oklahoma City with Team USA to travel to Toronto for the Pan American Games on July 5th. With a relatively small team to look after, I still had my hands full.

It’s been an adjustment to move to “the other side”, but in a way it is a lot more rewarding looking after others than yourself, and I am fully enjoying the transition on the sprint side.

My multi-tasking skills are improving too, as noted by above photo taken while cycling, timing and coaching!
I unfortunately missed the 1st of the surfski races, the Canadian Champs, and instead headed straight to Hood River for the Gorge Downwind Festival to race 2 events – the North American Championships and the Wild Side Relay.

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What an amazing venue for a race (or a holiday!) The river is warm, and the wind blew every day. It’s a strange sensation to be doing a downwind, on a river, against the flow, and in fresh water!

I had a great race, taking the lead about 2km in. Teneale Hatton (NZ) took a shallower line, and was a little behind me most of the way. I hit the last 3km, the wind died a little, and the runs went flat. Having the world’s fastest 1000m paddler hunting you down is a little daunting, and with about 1km to go she caught and passed me! Well done Teneale!

Here is a video taken by Carter of the last few flat and grindy km’s. (Thanks for the video, and the shouts of encouragement!)

The whole event was put on by Carter Johnson, who did an amazing job! From the crazy bus to shuttle us to a downwind every day, to the great food and beer, I can’t think of a reason to ever miss this event! Carter had a super team of helpers, including the wave-queen, Judy Jensen, and a number of volunteers. The event was in aid of Rivers for Change (http://www.riversforchange.org/)
The standard of the women’s event was nice and high, with some internationals making the trip out, including 2 Kiwi’s (Teneale and Rachel), an Aussie (Rowy), a South African (Samantha) as well as some local US Paddlers (Maggie). There is nothing better than seeing growth not only in numbers but depth of talent too! Let’s keep the momentum girls!

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Women’s Podium

On the 2nd last day, I teamed up with Maggie Hogan to do the Wild Side Relay, which consisted of 4 legs of roughly 8-10km each. The second leg I did took me through some of the best runs I had all week, in a section called Swell City! A great concept for a race, and one of the few events that utilized their wind window. Unfortunately I left Maggie with the last leg, a real slog with no wind! She pulled through and managed just fine though!

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Downwind Transport

Race 2: The US SurfSki Champs

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After spending a few days in San Diego at the USA Canoe Kayak Sprint Nationals, put on by the San Diego Canoe Kayak Team (well done Cathy and your team!), I flew into San Fransisco on Saturday morning, ready for some Golden Gate action!

Unfortunately no real wind at the start, although it was sunny and hot! Can’t have it all right? Teneale rocketed off the start line, showing us how it is done!
The current was crazy as usual, and I am not sure if my line was correct. Once under the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, we went South of Alcatraz, for the first time since I’ve done this race. The runs were fantastic around the island, followed by a bit of a flat spot.
Once through that section, it was runs all the way into Berkley. I seemed to be gaining on Teneale, but she was just too strong for me to catch her!

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The women’s field again nice and solid, with Rachel in 3rd, Maggie in 4th and Rowy in 5th.
Full results here:
Next up is the Nelo Summer Challenge followed by the 2nd ICF World Champs in Tahiti. With the rest of the world going, it’s looking like it will be one epic race!
See you on the water,
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