Journey of Transformation

“Let’s pause for a sec.”  It’s the day before the race, and we are half way through a long distance flatwater paddle. Lois lets her boat drift in the wind, dancing on the surface of the water. I dangle my fingers in the murky water, disregarding the gross quality to feel the current swirl beneath me. We are completely secluded by the riverside trees, joined only by a family of ducks. Around the river bend, there are barges, boats and kayakers. We savor the peace and quiet, knowing full well that  our routine will soon go haywire, as the whirlwind of racing will envelop us. “I know what we’re capable of, but I just wonder how this race will go. I just really wonder what we will be able to do.” Lois ponders out loud. Well, we were soon to find out.

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That, that is the thing with slalom, with sport. Despite the best preparation, there are so many unpredictable variables, some in our control and some beyond our control. The calm flatwater paddle was our last quiet moment for quite some time. The next day brought an early wake up followed by a drive to the course and the beginning of the warm up process.

Leading up to the race, I felt physically ready and excited to race.The top of my first run had some  solid parts, however I made a mistake in a crucial line approaching gate 17, resulting in a fifty second penalty. I finished the run very disappointed, but able to recognize the good parts of the run and the parts that I needed to improve upon. After a debrief with coach Brendan Curson, I got ready for my second run. While I was on the water, waiting for my start, the water level dropped drastically and the officials made the decision to delay the start for thirty minutes. This was a big challenge and learning opportunity in adaptability, as I had already planned my snacks and warm up according to the original start time. After more waiting, we were told the water was back up and it was time to go. I got to the start line nervous,  ready to go and excited to finally race. I was determined to fix my mistakes. I did, however I was caught off guard by a move that I had no trouble with in my first run. This resulted in a lengthy detour back up to get gate 8. I finished my run in 29th position, disappointed that I didn’t paddle as well as I know I could have, yet happy with my personal achievements.

The unpredictability of sport is one of its most beautiful challenges, with the potential to result in either immense disappointment or immense joy. Sometimes you exceed your greatest expectations, and sometimes you perform far below what you are capable of. As Lois said, you never know how it will turn out. I feel that I did not paddle anywhere close to my capabilities, however I can appreciate that the three minutes of racing don’t represent my paddling, nor do they represent every thing that I have learned in the past few weeks. Results do not reflect personal growth, and I’m happy to recognize some really solid parts of my race runs, and to have grown as an athlete and as a person from this experience. 13652293_10154289421190365_1560893917_n

The individual races were followed by team runs – where three paddlers in the same category navigate the race course as fast as possible, weaving tightly one after another. Lois Betteridge, Kylie Zirk and I had a blast trying to stay clean, fast, and stay out of eachother’s way. It was a hoot to pull out maple leaf temporary tattoos, fully deck ourselves out in canadian gear and cheer on our teams.

Yannick Laviolette and Ben Risk in full spirits for team runs
Yannick Laviolette and Ben Risk in full spirits for team runs

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I’m heading home full of gratitude for this experience, the people who helped me get here, and the clean rivers of Canada. It is always inspiring to have the opportunity to learn from the best athletes in the world. I would like to congratulate Florence Maheu and Lois Betteridge for the semi-final races, and all of Team Canada for working hard, having fun, and for making our country proud. A tremendous thank-you goes out to Mike Holroyd, Brendan Curson, Tyler Lawlor, Andy Parry and James Cartwright,  as well as Brenda and Jeff Boyd for making this trip as incredible as it was. As always, I owe this trip to my friends, family and supporters for making it happen.

The pursuit of a goal is a journey of transformation, and I’m happy to build on everything I have learned from this step of the journey.13620041_1823733771173012_6485310293179621030_n