"Bumps on the river to glory inspire Chelsea paddler" Paddle Inspiration

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Bumps on the river to glory inspire Chelsea paddler |

paddlers in Brazil

Sara Potvin Bernal competed in the Pan American Whitewater Championships in Brazil in March.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived in Brazil in mid-February was the sound of summer, the crickets and the rustling of leaves which I hadn't heard in months. It took 45 hours of flying, driving, and standing in lines to get from my snow-covered house in Chelsea, to hot and humid Foz do Iguazu in southern Brazil. A damp and drowsy arrival started my three weeks of training ahead of the Pan American Whitewater Slalom Championships.

I've got only a month to channel what I can of my ass-kicked Brazil- ian inspiration into a kick-ass performance.

The hotel was a pretty assortment of cabins, surrounded by banana, mango and papaya trees. Athletes were allocated two to a cabin. The first day on the river i got so overheated and light headed that I had to get out and sit down for a few minutes, to make the world stop spinning, training in soup was hard to get used to.

Splashing the brown lukewarm river water in my face was hardly refreshing. And it felt impossible to drink enough of the bottled water that we stocked up with from the local store. All day. all night, it was ridiculously hot, and ridiculously humid. It remained so humid overnight that our gear never really dried. Pulling my paddling shirt back on the next morning, it was just as damp as when I hung it up. During the first week of training I performed really well. My timed runs were very competitive. I was being aggressive and agile. I'm not really sure why, but into the second week my training tended significantly downhill. I got to the point where the course seemed to be beyond me, and that felt incred- ibly frustrating. I was invited to be a "forerunner" for the Brazilian Team Trials the weekend be-fore PanAms. and was happy to have a practice race. I discussed the situation with my coach and we wondered if perhaps my body was just getting tired? So the last three days before the big race I took it easier with the training, training on the water only once a day instead of the usual two or three sessions. Before my qualifying race I cooled off all morning in an air conditioned cabin, saving my energy. My warm-up fell good, and I loll confident as I walked the course with my coach. At 19 years old, this was my first senior race involving most of the world's top slalom canoe and kayak athletes. My previous races have all been smaller seniors events, or junior class, where I have managed to stake out a position as a middle-ranked athlete. I often paddle really well, but I remain inconsistent So I wasn't planning on a top ten finish at this event. Ah. but it was a different story altogether. Perhaps the fatigue'.' So here are the thoughts I'm left with. It's not too hard to be pretty good paddler. but now I think it's something completely 'different to be a world-class racer. I have to tell you. I have a new appreciation for the best racers who can put it all together and stay consistent. It only really hit me at that particular race, more than any other I have done, how truly tough it is to do all that is required to put down a medalwinning run. I came back with less that I expected. But oddly enough, rather than defeated, I'm feeling truly inspired by the strong, consistent performances that I witnessed amongst the top level athletes in that race. Today I am at the US Nation- al Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Canadian team is training there for 10 days. We will return mid-April to catch a glimpse of spring in the Gatineau Hills, and then it will be back to North Carolina again for the Canadian Senior Team Trials on 23-24 April. That means I've got only a month to channel what I can of my ass-kicked Brazilian inspirat ion into a kick-ass performance, whatever that should mean for an entry-level senior class paddler like me, still fresh out of juniors. My immediate goal is to make sure I qualify- for the senior national team. But there's no doubt in my mind now that I still have at least four to five more years of intensive physi- cal and psychological training before I can expect world class competitive results. Gulp!

published:The Low Down to Hull & Back News | 07