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July/August 2009 Profile: Patrick and Ryan Dolan are mostly chill until you get them on the water!

Maggie Hogan will push some of the world’s top sprint racers in her quest for Olympic glory.

inside Patrick and Ryan Dolan serve notice to the sprint racing world in typical laid back Hawaii style letting the results speak for themselves. These brothers, world-class padders individually, are the top K2 pair in the U.S. with their eye on London in 2012.


story and photos by

Joe Mann

Page 25 Maggie Hogan is focused and determined to make her mark.

Without a recent Olympic medal, the U.S. canoe sprint program cranks away at progress with high hopes for the next two Olympic cycles.

story and photos by

Joe Mann

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More Inside A primer on flatwater sprint racing

What’s a sprint course look like? What are the events of a canoe sprint regatta? These and other questions 6

Women in racing

One of the world’s best surf ski padders, DeAnne Hemmens of California, balances a growing family, running a business and regularly outdistancing her 10

Coach’s Corner

Fuel and hydration are key to successful racing, especially in ultra-marathon regattas. Chuck McHenry gives us all a chemestry lesson on eating and 12

Canoe & Kayak Racing Canoe & Kayak Racing is a bimonthly electronic magazine containing news, articles and features about events, paddlers, training, race results and other information about canoe and kayak racing in the United States. CKR seeks to promote canoe and kayak racing with editorial and promotional content designed to inform, educate and motivate beginners and experienced paddlers of all ages. Each issue will cover a wide range of editorial and promotional content from tips and how to articles to race reports and feature stories.

Two top coaches discuss the future of canoe sprint racing in the U.S. and the importance of volunteers introducing kids to 17

CKR regularly accepts by-lined editorial submissions with the right of final editing for style, tone, length and voice. Editorial and graphical content may not be used in any form, printed or digital, without permission of the editor with attribution.

Match ups highlight ‘09 Yukon River Quest

CKR is posted bimonthly at

A bright future for U.S. sprint racing

Two voyageur canoes and a handfull of solo challengers are the story of the 400-plus-mile race. Not to be outdone, the ladies step 20

USA Canoe/Kayak CEO gives his take on the sport

David Yarborough outlines the challenges faced by the national federation that oversees the Olympic sport of canoe sprint in the 19

Lake Placid erupts with young paddlers

Two stories from the famous Lake Placid International regatta and the related youth development camp from which racers were selected for the junior world championships in 22

Cover: Patrick (bow) and Ryan Dolan training in their K2 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., one day prior to the national team trials. Photo by Joe Mann.

Editor: Dan Grubbs

Contributors this issue: Chuck McHenry, Coach’s Corner Joe Mann, correspondent Pete Smith, correspondent

Canoe & Kayak Racing 1221 Pheasant Ct. Liberty, Missouri 64068 816-729-4422 CKR’s facebook profile


From the Editor

As paddlers, we all have our own thing we’re into. Some folks are hardcore canoeists and wouldn’t think of fitting into the cockpit of a kayak. Some embrace the personal challenge of ultra-marathons, while others think anything longer than 10 miles is silly. Simply said, paddlers come in many different stripes. That leads us to this issue of Canoe & Kayak Racing. One of the more rare forms of paddling is sprint racing. I write rare not because it’s unheard of or hard to find. Rare because the number of paddlers who are sprint racers are few, relatively speaking. This notwithstanding the fact that it is an Olympic medal sport. Our objective for this issue is to introduce or re-introduce the sport of sprint racing to the larger paddling community. We’re not breaking new ground here. And, diving into this subject was as much education for myself as it was for article research. However, there is much to be gained in the larger paddling community by other disciplines connecting with the sprint world, and vice versa. In my conversations with key fingers in the U.S. sprint world, I learned how

passionate they are about their sport and how focused they are on Olympic success.

however fleeting, to a sport that seems to exist in obscurity the way curling does in California.

Club coaches, some of whom are volunteers, work with teenagers, often twice a day, in the hopes of helping them reach the elite level. As an amateure sport in the U.S., sprint racing is laregly a self-funded endeavor that takes at least 10 years of hard training to reach an internationally competitive level. The degree of commitment from parents, padders, clubs and supporters is measured in more than dollars, but often in sweat, blood and tears.

However, I think the biggest impact would be the effect it would have on the minds of kids that would take up paddling, in some form, and begin a life-long love affair with boat, paddle and water. And just a few might be able to pick up where others left off to carry the red, white and blue on the race courses around the world.

Rather than simply report on race results or to profile a race, this issue will attempt to create a deeper understanding of this Olympic sport that was probably born long ago when one seal-skin-clad tribesman said he could out paddle his hunting partner. In this issue, we begin with a primer on sprint racing. For those unfamiliar with the sport, this would be a good put in spot. We’ve also interviewed the coaching staff and CEO of USA Canoe/Kayak, the national federation for the sport of sprint kayaking, for an inside look on the national program and their plan for success. By definition, success in this sport is a place on the Olympic or world championship podium. By their own admission, they have a lot of work to do, but have some great young athletes they are confident in the near future will bring glory to the U.S. in the form of hardware. What would this mean? It’s hard to overstate the impact winning an Olympic medal would have. At the very least, it would help justify badly needed funding for USA Canoe/Kayak. It would draw coveted attention,

The top men’s paddler on the U.S. sprint team, Morgan House, entered the sport because he was exposed to it in his home town near the Atlanta Olympics. He eventually worked his way through the Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club after the Atlanta games at that special venue. Some come to the sport from other disciplines, such as Ryan and Pat Dolan (cover story). Already teen phenoms in ocean racing in Hawaii, they were enticed to sprint racing and two future stars were born. Their coach called them the top K2 in the U.S. I have been convinced that it will be through the growth of existing and start up of new canoe and kayak clubs that our sport will grow. This will ultimately lead to larger numbers of young people paddling, with a few that emerge as talented athletes that can be channeled into the national development program. It’s as one coach said, there’s a far greater chance a teen will travel the world as a kayaker than as a softball, football or basketball player.

Dan “Osprey” Grubbs


A primer on fl sprint racing

The sport of sprint kayaking has a long history. Maybe even as far back as a lone hunter out on the icy waters in his skin-on-frame kajaq and having to evade a surfacing whale. Come to think of it, what virile Inuit male wouldn’t think he could out paddle his neighbor? No lanes, no time clocks, no crowds. Just a nod to his fellow waterman, a smile and off they’d go as fast as they could to see who could reach the next iceberg first. Fast forward to 2009 and thanks to technology, the boats, paddles and venues have all changed, but the objective is still the same: get to the finish first. In flatwater racing events today, paddlers race on straight courses in a boat in its own lane marked with buoys (see diagram page 8). Race distances are 200 meters, 500 meters and 1,000 meters in international regattas. Sprint racing became an Olympic medal sport in 1936 at the Berlin Olympic Games, but the Olympics do not include the 200-meter distance. Internationally governed by the International Canoe Federation, canoe sprint includes both men and women, at the youth, under 23 and senior divisions. Races are contested in singles boats, double boats and four-person boats in both kayaks and canoes. Courses 6

latwater g

are usually held at venues with calm water and wind not to exceed six meters per second during the event. Regattas are typically structured with preliminary heats leading to semifinals to determine the nine boats to reach the finals. As you’d expect, kayakers use a double-bladed paddle while canoeists use a single-blade paddle. Canoe racers are unique in that they paddle the canoe while raised up on one knee, allowing them to lunge forward for a catch far ahead of their bodies. At this time, an official ICF regatta includes canoe racing for men only.

Top specification race boats are high-tech watercraft made from carbon fiber and built for straight line speed. They are very narrow and take practice learning to maintain stability. Racing kayaks have a small rudder to aid turning when necessary and for helping to keep the kayak in a straight line when racing. Racing canoes do not have a rudder, have a very narrow beam and have a small deck fore and aft of the boat. A canoeist doesn’t switch, paddling only on one side of the boat. Therefore, canoeists use various stroke techniques to steer the boat and keep it straight in the racing lane.

A top race course will deploy a buoy system to designate nine lanes, a starting line, a finish line and various intermediate points, usually every 250 meters with the buoys changing color to red to indicate the final 100 meters. Starting lines can be simply a floating start where judges line the boats up evenly. More sophisticated venues use a held start either by a person laying on a dock holding the stern of the boat or by a starting shoe that serves like a starting gate where the racer inserts the bow just before the start and it drops out of the way simultaneously with the starting gun or tone.

To learn more about sprint racing, visit the Web sites of USA Canoe/Kayak or the ICF.

Each nation desiring to place athletes into international competition will have its own ICF-sanctioned federation. For the United States, that is USA Canoe/Kayak which coordinates the national program, hosts team trials and national regattas and makes team selections for international events. USA Canoe/Kayak is partially funded by the United States Olympic Committee and currently employs a national head coach and a development director as its juniors coach.


A typical 1,000-meter sprint course



Women in Racing Hemmens and Lewis Laughlin of Tahiti, hold the trophy as winners of the U.S. Surf Ski Championship.

DeAnne Hemmens: Balancing excellence with family and fun A humble 44-year-old DeAnne Hemmens, Costa Mesa, Calif., finds life itself in surf ski racing while juggling the responsibilities of motherhood, homemaker and business owner. Humble because she denies being one of the top surf ski racers in the world. However, her results belie her modesty (see side bar). In 1992, Hemmens was selected as a team alternate for the U.S. Women’s Sprint Team for the Barcelona Olympics. Four years later, Hemmens represented the U.S.A. at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics as part of the K2 and K4 teams. She also represented the U.S.A. at the Pan Am games in Cuba, winning two bronze medals and a kiss from Fidel Castro. Then in the 1995 Pan Am Games in Argentina, Hemmens won gold and silver medals. A year earlier, she was named Female Athlete of the Year by the United


States Canoe/Kayak team.

A beginning in matrimony This all began by marrying a South African, Patrick Hemmens, who has an unbridled passion for paddling and a world-class paddler himself. “I started paddling because of my husband, Patrick,” Hemmens said. “We went to visit his family in South Africa in 1986, and he was training for a river race called the Berg River Marathon. He paddled for hours around and around this reservoir, and I decided I wanted to do it too instead of sitting in the car.” Now a 20-year veteran, back then she started right off on surf skis and sprint kayaks. “I discovered I had some talent, so we started training for local sprint races,” she said. “Back then, you could travel to Olympic festivals,

competing against other regions and get a taste for the Olympic style of competition.” Hemmens indicates the change from racing ICF kayaks to surf skis was “a natural transition.” After the Olympics, she and Patrick started Ocean Paddlesports. Feeling that training for sprint racing was somewhat tedious, Hemmens was testing surf skis for their business and took up the ski as her primary racing platform. “I still wanted to be competitive, so traveling around the world and racing surf ski races was ideal.”

Balancing racing with other demands Hemmens indicated that she still thrives on competition, but finds it’s a challenge to balance staying at top fitness levels and managing a family and

business. “I loved competition. But, as I get older and our family grows, it’s more about staying fit and having fun.” Other priorities have to take a front seat. “I have had some disappointments lately when I have trained well for a race and then have to cancel the trip because a dog is dying or a child gets the flu – I am a mom first,” Hemmens said. “I find frustration in trying to maintain an elite level as well as daily life with children, a business and a home that take a lot of time and energy,” she explained. “This leaves little time for training well. You can only count on muscle memory for so long. With the standard of women’s paddling finally catching up with the men, I am being left in the dust by the 20-year-olds that train and sleep all day … hum, just what I used to do 15 years ago.” Changes in her life do not keep Hemmens off the water and out of competition. “I find life in paddle racing and training,” she revealed. “It gives you a completely different perspective than anything else. Paddle racing is so much more challenging and exciting and dangerous and unique, that really you can’t compare it to anything else. Shouldn’t your life be like that?”

Advice for women

“I have learned a lot,” Hemmens said. “There is more than one way to do things and not everyone wants to race. But, I hear many women use the excuse that they have no upper body strength. Well, that’s easy to fix in the gym or a few days a week on the water.” For those just starting out, she recommends finding a stable surf ski and to bring a friend. “I would recommend the same thing to a man, too.”

see HEMMENS page 18

Competition between genders Since paddling at an elite level means fewer women to compete against, Hemmens isn’t afraid to lay it out there against the men in competition. “I can’t speak for other women, but when I paddle in a race with men, I am racing them,” she said. “Even if there is a women’s division, I have been racing the same men for years, so it’s a good gauge.” When asked about the differences between passing a woman or passing a man, Hemmens explained that she doesn’t recall ever passing another woman racer in her. “But, passing anyone means you are feeling better than they are, and that’s good.”

Facing the famous Moloka’i A five-time veteran (solo and tandem) of the Molokai championship race in Hawaii, Hemmens sees that event as less race against other paddlers and more a battle with the ocean. “The Molokai is a whole different world,” she explains. “It’s different because we train here in flat, flat ocean. The Molokai is about just finishing for me, not really about competition. There is something very special about completing a race you don’t think you can do. It’s all those battles within battles you go through for those four hours. It’s you and the ocean and the ocean doesn’t care who you are. If we lived where we had big conditions to train in, then I might feel differently about it. But, it has a personal appeal to it. When I paddled it tandem with Patrick, I found a joy and passion again for the sport.”

Modesty aside, she’s a winner Won the lifeguard competition at Mount Manganue, New Zealand, beating the world champion 1999 Ocean Woman of the Year after winning every Bud Light Ocean Festival liveguard event Second place in 2006 Molokai challenge women’s solo surf ski division Winning three U.S. Surf Ski Championships First place women’s division in first Culebra Challenge in Puerto Rico Sixth place at the South African World Cup in 2006 Winning mixed tandem Scottburgh to Brighton race in South Africa (with Patrick) Fourth overall tandem in the Cape Point Challenge in 2007 (with Patrick) Won every California state surf ski championships she entered 11

Coach’s Corner Chuck McHenry gives you his thoughts on training, technique and tips to help you improve as a paddler

Paddle and puke. First of all, a proviso – the following information is a bit controversial. Take it with a grain of salt (be it the salt in your system trying to pull water out of your stomach, or the salt on the brim of your hat telling you you’ve been sweating.) Nausea. No, this isn’t a Sartre philosophical treatise, this is a comment on last year’s Missouri River 340, an ultra marathon. There seemed to be a lot of nausea. People dropped out, including experienced racers because of it. There were barf bags at several checkpoints. Even I, who normally am immune from such nonsense, got a little queasy first day. Was it the two Mickey D McMuffins I ate before the race? Was it a particularly nasty bug emanating from the Kansas City sewer pipes? Was it the evil star? Admittedly I’m entering a realm of differing opinions. I compare what we were told in U.S. whitewater team training camps 20 years ago to current research. The matter still isn’t cleared up in my mind. So what I am going to present has a lot of bearing on my own experience and interviews with others. The Disclaimer: A lot of how an athlete reacts is based on a plethora of conditions. These can include: weight, conditioning, genetics, acclimatization, gender, even time of day or year. So, you must experiment and find your own answer to race nausea. Okay, here we go When we eat, what gets used from our stomach contents, gastric emptying, depends almost entirely on our osma-


Coach’s Glossary Osmolarity (or osmalality): a measure of the osmoles of solute per liter of solution. Okay, we all aren’t chemical engineers. A simple example would be the amount of salt in salt water is it’s osmolarity. Even simpler, think of it as so many “dots” per liter. Osmosis: diffusion of molecules through a membrane from a place of higher concentration to a place of lower concentration. Or, using dots again, dot concentration on one side tries to equal dot concentration on the other. ATP: adenosine triphosphate is a nucleotide derived from adenosine that occurs in muscle tissue. ATP is a major source of energy for cellular reactions. Stored body fat: well, we all know what that is. But bear in mind that stored body fat can be converted by the body into 441 units of ATP. Glucose, on the other hand, will convert to three ATPs. Glycogen: is a many-branched polymer of glucose and may contain 30,000 ATPs. Isotonic: A solution that has the same salt concentration as the normal cells of the body and blood. This is 0.9% salt. Definition of isotonic solution: if the medium has exactly the same water concentration as the cell, there will be no net movement of water across the cell membrane. This is an isotonic solution. Hypotonic is less than 0.9%. Hypertonic is greater than 0.9%.

lality (see glossary). Our body would like to use stomach calories before burning stored fuel, but if the osmalality is wrong, gastric emptying can’t occur and stomach calories cannot be absorbed. The end result is “a huge gut ache, and possibly lots of vomiting.” Normally, as the stomach fills when eating, a hormone mediator tells the brain we are full. During the stress of a race, these conditions can be drastically altered. Imagine a worst-case scenario. You have been paddling anaerobically for four hours. You have used up all muscle- and liver-stored glycogen. Now you are completely dependent on calories from stomach contents. Some of your body’s salts are resting on your face and hat brim. This worries you so you take an electrolyte pill, and a huge gulp of a sport drink. Almost all sport drinks are isotonic (see glossary). Adding an electrolyte pill has just pushed you way over the edge into hyper tonicity. Odds are you’re going to be in trouble. The osmalality of your stomach contents is greater than your systemic osmolality; which means you can’t possibly absorb water out of your stomach. In fact, your stomach may start drawing water from your body. With heat and exertion continuing, you are now vulnerable to heat exhaustion usually accompanied by a purging of stomach contents. Or, as my wife Di says, paddling and puking. I wish there were a clear solution. Certainly one major objective of electrolyte use is making sure you have lots before the race. Yet, what are you going to do in a multi-day race? Let’s look at two philosophies. But first, a statement from researchers at the University of California–Davis. “Every food contains sodium, chloride and potassium. It is unlikely that [someone] would not meet the minimum requirements. Deficiencies are rare. Over consumption of these minerals most likely poses a greater health threat.”

Philosophy No. 1 – Constant electrolyte supplement. In this camp, people are using electrolytes sometimes at very high levels. I call them electrolyte junkies. Use of electrolytes is supported by countless studies done by … electrolyte companies. However, bear in mind this is actually a “trainable” state. Through constant salt ingestion, you can train your body to override it’s natural functioning and become dependent on you supplying it electrolytes. The advantage is you will most definitely not run out of electrolytes. The disadvantage is you are on the edge of hyper tonicity and purging. Philosophy No. 2 – Little or no electrolyte supplement. I am horrified at the use of electrolyte pills during a race. That’s too much, all at once, and I know without a shadow of a doubt, it doesn’t work for me. In 1,020 miles of Missouri River 340 racing, I have never used a specific electrolyte additive. And, in that 1,020 miles, I have never experienced heat exhaustion. Most trainers feel that we get enough electrolytes just through the food we eat. I am in this camp. Also bear in mind that many athletes eat or drink pure glucose in the form of a gel or other concentrated form. Most sport drinks are isotonic with glucose. If you add to that an electrolyte tablet, your body may want to purge stomach content. The same system used to get glucose out of your stomach, is also used for sodium. That’s too many “dots” in the stomach. Water doesn’t absorb into the body properly and can possibly start being drawn out of your cells (what happens when you drink seawater) and as a defensive mechanism to save water, purging results. Our bodies are wonderful machines and generally know what to do. Ancient man armed with the newly mutated, staggering advantage of a sweat/coolant system, ran down his prey over the course of days on the hot African savanna. He did not take electrolytes. Nor did Mayan runners

covering 100s of miles per week. According to Steve Born – one of the Hammer Nutrition gurus – salt stains on the brim of your hat are not an indication of sodium depletion. All it means is the body is getting rid of excess, and unneeded, salt. The body monitors sodium and chloride loss, and is fully capable of recirculating it by a positive feedback loop, which is monitored by hormonal receptors throughout the body. Born writes, “a high sodium electrolyte supplement is temporal and contradictory to natural physiological serum electrolyte control.” He goes on to explain that the human body needs very minute amounts of sodium to function normally, which is easily supplied by foods. This is where addiction comes in. If you are used to going heavy on electrolytes, you have trained your body to over ride what it would do naturally, and you have to stay heavy on electrolytes because that’s what you’ve taught your body to do. There are electrolyte drinks that theoretically have the right “osmotic” balance for absorption, but then we get into another problem – sugars. If we are going to cruise through the Missouri River 340 at a VO2 max rate of 50% or less, (an aerobic speed, such as a fast walk) you can eat or drink almost anything – cheese pizzas, seven-layer burritos, tuna sandwiches, etc. If you up your VO2 rate to 70% or more (in or close to anaerobic) your body is going to respond by diverting blood from central areas to peripheral. This means that there simply isn’t a large enough blood flow going to your stomach to absorb ingested energy sources as efficiently and the osmolality of your stomach’s content can slowly rise to critical levels. Remember, the body can only provide glucose to the bloodstream at a maximum rate of one gram per minute, in the best

see COACH on page 28 13

Young U.S. sprint team successful despite challenges on and off the water Morgan House

When you’re the national coach of an Olympic sport, you think in terms of four-year cycles. Known as quads, these periods are punctuated intermittently with world championship and world cup events that afford a key measurement of a national team’s progress. This is the case with USA Canoe/ Kayak’s sprint head coach, Nathan Luce, who is charged with … well … everything related to the team’s international success. Luce took over the top spot of the sprint program in 2005 after a few years of coaching in the Canadian national program and at one of the leading Canadian canoe and kayak clubs.

Nathan Luce USA Canoe/Kayak head coach, sprint 14

Laughingly, Luce remembers when he was hired as the U.S. head coach thinking he was a long shot for the job. “I didn’t think I would get the job and applied on a lark, really,” Luce quipped. “I got the job because I think the federation was looking for a young, energetic coach that could handle the multiple roles I play and someone who could offer a clear vision for success.”

Candidly, Luce reports that he has taken over a program that faces significant challenges to international success. “We had great athletes when I took over, just too few of them and very limited resources,” Luce said. On the women’s team, a young Carrie Johnson was ahead of pace for a traditional kayak racer. “Although Carrie has been slowed by her Crohn’s Disease, she has great potential and has already had great international success,” he said. “On the men’s team, Rami Zur represented the U.S. at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic games and holds several World Cup medals.” But after Zur and Johnson, the talent pool was pretty small. This is one of the challenges that Luce faces – creating an internationally-competitive team with very few athletes that are ready for battle against the world’s best paddlers. “We’re a very young team compared to other nations,” he explained. “The average age on our current senior team is about 20 or 21. The average age of medalists at international regattas is about 27 or 28.”

Realistic expectations Luce explains that USA Canoe/ Kayak is realistic in its expectations of younger athletes. He indicated that he was focusing on results for this year highlighted by the World Championships in August in Halifax, Canada. “So far, we’re having a good quad in relation to our resources,” Luce added. To those in the know, the U.S. team’s results are very good despite having a paltry budget. For a national federation of a nation the size of the U.S., it may seem a bit strange that there is only one coach for the team and one for the junior program, but that is the situation that Luce embraced when he took the job. “It’s a tremendous challenge and rewarding at the same time to work within our current environment,” Luce said. “But, I’m privileged to work with great athletes and great officials during this tough period of our development … I’m hopeful that our young athletes and those in our development program will hang in there and continue on their own development path with us.”

currentlevels due to missing the podium in the Beijing games. He said he understands that the USOC has tough choices to make, and a big part of what goes into funding decisions is success at the Olympic level. In addition to two coaches’ salaries, the USOC does provide room and board for up to eight athletes at the training center for two-thirds of the year.

Coach as master juggler What this means for Luce, and his junior coach, Mac Hickox, director of National Development for USA Canoe/Kayak, is that they have to wear every hat imaginable. “Not only am I the on-water coach for the senior team;” he said, “I’m the off-water coach, weight training coach, boat transport driver, scheduling master, fund raiser and PR guy.” This is a lot to juggle when you spend

most of your days on the water with athletes that are training twice a day in their boats in addition to their off-water training. “In a program that should have half a dozen coaches, I’m wearing all the hats while Mac is doing a super job on the development program, which is our future.” One of the things that Luce brings to the table is solid international connections. Not all that long ago, Luce was a top Canadian paddler himself who also trained in Germany developing relationship in the European network of clubs and national teams. When his international paddling career began to wane, he was already coaching top athletes, including Adam van Koeverden as a bantam. These connections have helped Luce

continued on next page

Carrie Johnson

He said the team is on track – especially given its age – and has demonstrated success by having a number of boats make the B finals in 11 events in the recent World Cup regattas in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Top regattas are comprised of preliminary heats, semifinals and the top nine from these rounds selected for A finals and the next nine for B finals.

Funding challenges The United States Olympic Committee has significantly reduced support which means the federation has to work hard to gain funding from a variety of sources (see editorial by USA Canoe/Kayak CEO, David Yarborough). This situation is exacerbated by the tough economy and major sponsors withdrawing their support from this and other amateur sports. Luce indicated that the USOC wasn’t likely to fund the federation beyond

Rami Zur 15

with the U.S. team. “At first, we weren’t very connected with international teams,” Luce said of the U.S. program. “Now, other countries’ teams and clubs have been spending time at our facilities and clubs which exposes our athletes to other programs and other athletes that are competing at a very high level. It’s very good for our young athletes.”

Standards remain high Although the U.S. coaches are realistic about expectations for a young senior team, they also won’t lower their standards for making the team for international regattas. At the beginning of the federation’s document outlining the criteria for team selection is a paragraph that gives the context for the program for this quad. It reads: One of the primary goals of USA Canoe/Kayak … is to develop athletes who are training and racing to win at the highest levels of international competition. Results from the 2009 World Championships will be an important step in ensuring that our athletes return the U.S. to a medal winning country. 2009 is the beginning of a new quad and the start of new opportunities. USA Canoe/Kayak feels it possesses a talented group of athletes within its membership who will be striving for and achieving podium success in 2012. The document lists complex criteria an athlete must achieve in order to be nominated for the World Cup Team. Simply stated, an athlete isn’t nominated for international competition just by being the fastest in the country. The athlete must also achieve minimum time standards designed to make the team competitive at the international level. As development coach, Hickox is pleased with the criteria and standards set in place. “We’re committed to very high standards and competitive time standards,” he said. “We have work to do, but we’re making progress and


we’re doing an outstanding job.” “Mac is doing everything he can to develop the talent pool at the junior levels and younger,” Luce said. “But the size of the talent pool is small. One of the greatest tasks is to keep the pool from shrinking. “We’re facing a serious attrition problem,” Luce said. “Candidly, what does the sport have to offer an 18- or 19-year-old that’s trying to make decisions about attending college or finding a job that can coincide with intense training? As a national system, we have no scholarships, no athlete support and very little coaching.”

That’s why if a young paddler shows promise but is not quite at the elite international level, many simply can’t wait out their own development schedule and must matriculate to college or find a job to support themselves. “When would they have time to train twice a day if they had to work to put themselves through college,” Luce asks. It’s not all doom, Luce reports. Several of the clubs are producing top paddlers, such as those that comprise the

see YOUNG on page 21

Canoe and kayak clubs are the foundation of the national team

USA Canoe/Kayak head coach, Nathan Luce, reports that the size of the U.S. talent pool is too small for a nation this size. Mac Hickox, national development director and coach of the junior team, agrees.

“That’s why our relationship with the canoe and kayak clubs around the country is critical,” said Hickox, who was instrumental in establishing a coaches’ association and a training and certification program for coaches. “We have conference calls with many of the club coaches to coordinate technique and philosophies,” Hickox said. “That way, we can provide feedback on their athletes that is useful to them as they guide a young paddler.” According to Luce, Hickox and the club coaches have stepped up and are meeting the challenge, despite funding shortages. “We can match up with the Europeans at the junior level, and we need to continue to produce athletes that qualify for finals at international junior events,” he said. “The statistics bear out that those who reach the podium at the junior level continue their progress and are the medal winners at the senior level.” The benefits to USA Canoe/Kayak when partnering with clubs are many, including allowing the national coaches to prioritize. “With a well-developed club system, it allows me to focus on medal-potential athletes while the clubs can focus on the juniors and U23 paddlers,” he said. Luce said that he sees many of the clubs doing a great job, but there simply is not enough of them to feed the national team and challenge the top paddling powers in Europe consistently at the senior level. “We have great athletes that come out of clubs,” Luce said. “But, they are very young and they need to be more proficient in their boats so they can transition to the senior level better. That’s why for the juniors, we’ll focus on the team boats to refine their skills and stand a better chance at podium positions. Then after a few years at the senior level, they can transition to K1 if they have to ability to compete at the highest level.”

Some CKR readers may be able to recall the last Olympic medal the United States won in the sport of flatwater sprint kayaking. Most won’t have a clue, however. Yet, according to Shaun Caven, head coach at the Chesapeake Boat House in Oklahoma City, there are some solid reasons why the future of sprint kayaking in the United States can be bright. One reason is that the current national team has paddlers that are ahead of the curve and achieving results that usually come with more experience. Another reason is the national junior team is filled with talent that, if funded and supported properly, will continue to develop and compete at the international level. But, based on the message Caven is communicating, the most important reason there can be a successful future for U.S. sprint kayaking is that there are tens of thousands of elementary school classrooms across the country filled with kids that stand a better chance at traveling the world as a sprint kayaker than they ever could as a basketball, football or softball player.

Shaun Caven (left) head coach of the Chesapeake Boathouse with Mac Hickox, USA Canoe/Kayak national development director.

Pass out the shades, the future may look bright for U.S. sprint racing Caven, who trained international paddling stars as head coach of the British national team, said that the U.S. national system will grow and be successful if adult paddlers “will get kids involved and also help coach.” He added, “I visit elementary and middle schools in our area and introduce young students to the world of sprint kayaking. But, if we’re to develop sustained success in the U.S., a few of us can’t be the only ones teaching kids about kayaking. Kids are the lifeblood of our system.”

Past international success The U.S. is not without international sprint paddling success highlighted by Greg Barton’s four Olympic medals – two gold medals in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games – and four World Championship gold medals. However, as a nation focused on major team sports and very limited opportunity for kayaking, it’s surprising that the U.S. has the high caliber of paddlers it does. “We probably have 4-5 men and 3-4 women on the senior team, young paddlers, who are on track to reach the A finals at major international events in 2-3 years,” Caven said. He’s optimistic about the future of the U.S. sprint team because these paddlers are in their early 20s. “A lot of elite kayakers will peak in their late 20s or early 30s,” Caven said. “In theory, our athletes should not even

be able to make the team at this stage, so we are spot on track.” Symbolic of the national senior team’s success in 2009, the U.S. sent five men and five women kayakers to the World Cup in Europe this spring, where the sport of sprint kayaking is enormously popular and well funded. “I think the team has done well, but you can’t rush the process,” Caven said. “We must develop kids naturally and when doing so, top talent emerges.” Take Morgan House for example, he was a teenager that got involved at the Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club in Gainsville, Ga., after the Atlanta Olympic games. When he started, House claims he was one of the slowest paddlers at the club. Now he’s representing the U.S. on the national team and achieving world-class results. “As a 22-year-old paddler, he is on pace to be there in the next two Olympic cycles,” Caven said.

The need for young blood As sports oriented as the U.S. is, many make the assumption that the U.S. team should consistently dominate the sport of paddling at all levels. However, this is probably

continued on next page 17

a naive assumption because there are very few places where kids can be introduced to the sport, let alone receives quality instruction.

ing and certification program that will develop more coaches to allow quality instruction at all levels for all ages.”

It wasn’t all that long ago that millions of American kids were playing recreational and club soccer and yet our national soccer team couldn’t seem to compete at the top international level. As coaching and club programs become more competitive, which fed into scholastic and collegiate programs, now the U.S. soccer team is an international power that other nations no longer take for granted. The same can happen for the sport of paddling, just on a different scale.

A lifetime of paddling

In addition to about 10 well-established clubs spread out across the country, there is an Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., which provides athletes access to elite coaching, training and nutritional expertise. But, the center is funded for only the elite paddlers with potential to be successful at the international level. “Everyone understands that training together in one place is highly effective for continued development,” Caven said. However, he indicated that even if there were more clubs and training centers, there simply are not enough adults interested in mentoring and coaching kids and teens in the sport of paddling. Even at the elite level, more certified coaches are needed to help bear the burden of the coaching staff of the national team. “Right now there’s only funding for two coaches at the U.S. team level,” Caven said. He indicated that the club coaches are doing a great job, but as they support the national coaches, the club coaches need certified coaches to help at the local level. USA Canoe/Kayak can help meet that need. “We now have a new coaches’ association and a train-


One of the messages Caven is spreading is that paddling, whether sprint or marathon, is a lifetime sport. “Although most juniors will end their elite competitive career at 19 because it’s difficult to transition to the senior team, the thing everyone needs to remember is that paddling is a sport we can all enjoy forever.” Caven practices what he preaches. Recently, he took three middle school boys to a race in Arkansas to expose them to racing and make contacts with other racing communities. “You have to take kids with you,” he said. “If you have room, take a kid.” Two of his club’s boys, Dylan Puckett and Cooper Wende, finished the seven-mile course with a time that was faster than about half of the adult entries. Caven paddled in a K2 with 11-year-old Ryan Quinonez and finished second in the adult tandem division. Those boys will stick with it just because of experiences like the one they had in Arkansas.


Hemmens indicates that paddling and training with other women can be a bit different, reporting that they are generally more talkative. “Between hard paddling sets, I find we are a bit more chatty than the guys … paddling with women, I’ve learned to talk more.”

Learning from Patrick Her paddling mentor is her husband, Patrick. Not only did he introduce her to paddling, he is her greatest fan. “He thinks I can win every race I enter and still be a good mom even if I’m bone tired from training and even look good doing it.” According to Hemmens, as a spouse, mentor and training partner, Patrick is as good as it gets. “He is the greatest man I know and the greatest paddler I know,” Hemmens said. “I wish I had half the passion he does for this sport.” Wanting to share the joys of ski paddling with others, Hemmens invites anyone to join them in their regular paddles. “I invite anyone to give us call when they are in the area and come paddle with our group. We love to share where we live and where we paddle. I love the connections we make through this sport and that is what makes it what it is.”

For a more significant impact, he suggests paddling communities in different parts of the country begin a club. And once a club is established, even a small one, the next step has to be to “identify a coach and train them and get them certified,” Caven said. “It’s vital to get folks to coach kids and then get them to races and even organize races at the local level so there’s an opportunity to compete and use the skills the young paddlers have been developing in training.” To learn more about coach Shaun Caven and the Chesapeake Boathouse in Oklahoma City, visit the official Web site.

Hemmens with husband Patrick Hemmens.

State of canoe sprint in the U.S. A conversation with USA Canoe/Kayak CEO David Yarborough In the United States, Olympic sports are often fraught with challenges that many other nations don’t deal with because they are controlled by a federal government. Canoe & Kayak Racing discussed some of the challenges that USA Canoe/Kayak faces and their objectives for the future of the sport. What follows is an edited dialog with David Yarborough, the CEO and executive director of USA Canoe/Kayak.

between the U.S. sprint programs and those of our international competitors is simply that of scale. We have only a handful of clubs in our country that focus on sprint and the total number of competitors in sprint racers sanctioned by USA Canoe/Kayak each year is less than 1,000. By comparison, countries such as Canada, Germany, Hungary and others have many thousands of participants in sprint racing.

Canoe & Kayak Racing: What are the biggest challenges facing sprint kayaking in the U.S. now, three full years from the next Olympic Games in London?

Looking at canoe sprint in comparison to other summer Olympic sports in the U.S., you can see the impact of scale as well. For example, swimming, arguably our most successful Olympic sport, has more than 100,000 active members.

David Yarborough: One is simply the name of our sport. The International Canoe Federation has decided to call this sport “canoe sprint.” This poses a problem in the U.S. where the sport are commonly referred to as kayaking. The ICF no longer uses the word kayak except as an event within the sport of canoeing. So we have a sport that is not yet well-known in the U.S. and we now have to re-educate even those who already know it. CKR: If that’s the biggest problem sprint racing faces in the U.S. then it must be in pretty good shape. Yarborough: Aside from the nomenclature, there are several substantial problems with sprint in our country at the moment. In my view the most significant gap

CKR: It only takes one athlete to win a medal, so why is scale an issue to producing medal winners? Yarborough: While it’s possible for extraordinary athletes to emerge from small programs and achieve international success, the probability rises with larger numbers of athletes participating. Besides that, sprint is both an individual and a team sport. In order to develop successful K2 and K4 boats you need to have lots of athletes in your program. CKR: What’s the reason then that our population of paddlers competing in sprint racing is so much smaller than some other countries? Yarborough: There is no one obvious answer to that. We are not a collegiate sport where scholarships attract many young athletes. There is no profession-

David Yarborough al level in sprint racing that presents a hope of earning a living, much less becoming wealthy. Finally, canoe sprint is not a televised sport in the U.S. as in other countries. Television is the great determinate of which sports attract money and which do not. CKR: Speaking of money, what is the financial standing of USA Canoe/ Kayak? Yarborough: The truth is that money, or the lack of it, is both the chicken and the egg of the challenge faced by our sprint sport. Let me start by stating straightaway that the heavy lifting in this sport is done by clubs throughout the country. The good news here is that we have some very strong clubs and some young ones that are growing. Nevertheless, when we look north to Canada, we see a larger number of clubs much larger than ours. At the federation level, at USA Canoe/ Kayak, we have to focus our resources on a small number of elite athletes who have shown the potential to succeed in international competition. We

see Yarborough on page 32 19

Matchups highlight Canada’s Yukon River Quest The 11th annual Yukon River Quest shaped up to be a race pitting paddlers against each other as well as against the river. The field of 83 teams put in the Yukon River on June 24 to embark on what is arguably the longest annual canoe and kayak race at 460 miles. The journey begins in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. Several teams were back to either regain their titles or to challenge the established record in their division. For additional motivation, there was a record $36,000 in prize money in multiple categories. “We are very pleased to see that the number of teams this year is very close to last year’s number (89), even in this economic situation,” said Jean-Francois Latour, president of the Yukon River Marathon Paddlers Association. In the men’s solo division, record holder Brad Pennington of Texas was challenged by David Kelly and Carter Johnson of California as well as British paddler Shaun Thrower. Johnson currently holds the men’s solo record in the Texas Water Safari and the Missouri River 340, but missed the YRQ solo record this year by 10 minutes with a time of 44 hours 24 minutes. Kelly and Pennington ended their races before reaching the finish while Thrower pushed Johnson to the end with a time of 47 hours for second in men’s solo. Johnson said the contenders were eager to get past the pre-race chatter and “start the real deal with some head to head action; and, for better or worse, let the results speak for themselves.”


In the voyageur canoe division,

Team Texans sought to regain the title they won in 2007. Their more than capable competition was Team Dene of Saskatchewan, Canada. Both teams filled with experienced marathon paddlers. When the race began, it was clear the pace would be fast. “The two fast voyager canoes rocketed past the singles,” Johnson said. “David and I caught the Texan voyager and took turns on the sweet spot for the next hour. The pace for a single had simply passed beyond silly into the ludicrous zone and for sure was going to be short lived.”

As it turned out, the battle for first place was fought between the voyageur canoe teams through the first seven checkpoints and the mandatory layover at Carmacks checkpoint. The two boats were essentially hitting each checkpoints simultaneously. It was not until after the layover at Kirkman Creek at the 360-mile mark that a nine-minute difference occurred that expanded to 35 minutes by the time the teams reached checkpoint No. 8 at the 413-mile mark. Then, somewhere in the distance between the last checkpoint and the finish line in Dawson, within those 46 miles, the gap between the boats widened to 50 minutes as Team Texans finished with a time of 40:52 while Team Dene crossed the line at the 41:42 mark. Johnson shares a few thoughts about this year’s YRQ. “One moment that stands out above the rest was the layover at Kirkman Creek,” Johnson said. “It was just a few degrees above freezing and the rain was pouring thru the tents. With everything

Carter Johnson

soaked thru there was no point to even trying to sleep. At the absolute perfect moment Shaun Thrower arrived. We both laughed and chatted for a long time. It was a full topping off of the spirit tank which was really needed.” One of the great stories of the 2009 YRQ was the strength of the women’s field demonstrated by where they finished. Seven of the first 14 boats to reach Dawson were either mixed or women’s boats. Three women’s tandem boats led by the team of Veronica Wisniewski and Elizabeth Bosely, achieved 7th, 11th and 13th overall places. Four mixed boats led by the pair of Tim Hodgson and Jane Vincent came in at 5th, 8th, 9th and 14th place. Giving kudos to race officials and the host of volunteers needed to put on such a race, Johnson expressed his pleasure about the culture of the YRQ. “Just as with the MR340, the experiences found from the community and friendships far outweigh the race itself,” he said. “Races eventually end but community can last forever.” The 12th edition of the Yukon River Quest is scheduled for June 30, 2010. For more information, visit the Web site at


“In order to achieve the kind of results the USOC is looking for, we must be allowed to prioritize our energy and resources to focus on the handful of paddlers that show this kind of potential, while Mac and the top club coaches focus on the athletes under age 23,” Luce said.

His goal is to retain these young podium-potential athletes for the next two quads, with an eye to both London, and hopefully Chicago in 2016. “Today, for example, on the men’s team, we have potential to field two K1 and two K2 boats to compete at the top level, but we need to build depth, too,” he said. It’s with depth the U.S. can create a competitive environment. “We’ll keep a singles and doubles focus on the senior team heading into London, but we just don’t have the depth required to be competitive at K4.”

Optimistic, Luce sees the U.S. program following the right path. “Morgan [House] is already down to 1:38 at 500 meters and capable of going even faster,” Luce reports. “It’s important to continue to grow at the junior level to ensure the talent pool can feed to the senior level. We have great talent at the junior level and U23 level, but if the guys want to race K1 at the Olympics, they have to beat Morgan and the gals have to knock off Carrie.

2009 World Cup team. “Those who placed in the top 12 or 14 at the World Cup are great first-year results for paddlers under age 23 who are still learning how to compete at international regattas,” Luce said.

For the women where there are only three events, Luce will focus on two events where he believes the team can compete with elite paddlers at the international level.

These challenges by young paddlers to the veterans is what keeps everyone training hard and staying hungry, Luce said. “Rami Zur was challenged by Morgan and kept him pushing hard. We need more of this pushing from juniors and young seniors. We can use the young talent in a team boat until they do knock off the top seniors.

The Sept/Oct issue of Canoe & Kayak Racing will feature ocean racing. Click this ad to request to have each issue sent to your e-mail account.

As coach Shaun Caven of Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Boathouse reports, the future is in the hands of the next generation that can be found in middle schools (see article on page XX). Luce agrees. He said the U.S. need local programs and events to promote sprint paddling across the country. “This will create clubs where there weren’t any and also strengthen existing clubs.” Future success is also dependent on quality coaching at all levels, not just for elite juniors and seniors. “Volunteer coaches should seek to grow and develop as coaches and become certified through our training program, Luce said. “Professionalizing our instruction through coaching training was one of the biggest steps we’ve taken to ensure future success.” But, success ultimately comes down to the will of the paddler. “If someone wants to be a top-level junior, then the young paddler needs to understand they need to commit to real, daily training. Paddling is a simple concept, but requires serious dedication to be the best.”

Find the latest issue of Canoe & Kayak Racing at 21

story and photos by Pete Smith

Canadians edge U.S. at Lake Placid International

In case you’ve never been here, Lake Placid is a beautiful place.

events, go to

Situated in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, this sleepy little village is the most athletic town I have ever seen. The site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games is a mecca for runners, skiers, bikers, fishermen and just about anything else related to sports. It is also home to the east coast Olympic Training Center and the National Sports Academy where athletes in every winter sport come to train.

This year, the LPI, as it’s known, started with about 280 athletes from the U.S. and Canada. You could call it a grudge match, and you might be right. The competition is intense. These athletes compete from year to year starting as bantams, the youngest age group in sprint racing at 12 to14 and some continuing through the masters ranks into the 60s and beyond.

What a great many people don’t know, however, is that Lake Placid is also the home for two very large canoe and kayak events each year. The Lake Placid Invitational sprint canoe and kayak regatta held over the July 4th weekend and the Lake Placid Marathon regatta, also held the same weekend. For more information and complete results on these two great


places with the teams of Katie Findaly and Nicole Hayward from the Rideau Canoe Club first and from Ontario, Nina Doherty and Rachel Marcusson second and Nicole Wong and Taylor Potts third.

U.S. K4 junior women’s team achieved qualification time for World Junior Championships in Moscow

This year, the Canadians came on strong with wins in men’s K-2 and K-4 at the 500 meter distance. They also dominated the open women’s C-2 at 500 meters by taking the first three

The Canadians were in pretty solid shape with an early lead. The Americans would come on strong with good performances but it wouldn’t be enough. The regatta started off with good weather but a not-so-good forecast. The storms were coming.

The morning’s racing went off without a hitch. Then came the lunch break. Then came the rain. As the mountain tops disappeared and the rain came in

buckets, the finish line could no longer be seen from the 1,000 meter start. Racing went on through 12 MPH to 14 MPH winds which were from the south and then the west and then the north in a matter of minutes and then the rain was gone, leaving as fast as it came.

Championships in Moscow.

The K4 1,000 junior women’s final would go to the Canadian national team by more than eight seconds with a 3:34.98. A time of 3:43.27 would prove good enough to qualify the American K4 team of Giulia Anderson, Morgan Smith, Cannie Ashe and Katelyn Dill for the Junior World

This year’s Lake Placid Invitational proved to be the closest competition yet with the Canadians taking the Canada Cup by only four points over the Americans. The most common reaction to the small margin of victory? Wait ‘til next year.

The American junior K2 team of Luke Potts and Cedric Bond came back to avenge their 500 meter loss to the Canadians by beating the team of Nathan Barton and Colin Black by 2.38 seconds.

Campers have immediate success at international regatta Up and coming athletes from around the U.S. converge on two time Olympic host city, Lake Placid, New York, for the summer national sprint development camp. This camp is for bantam and juvenile division paddlers looking for the opportunity to advance to the top junior ranks of U.S. sprint racing. Led by USA Canoe/Kayak national development coach, Mac Hickox, and camp head coach, Saleh Aasim (of the Seattle Canoe and Kayak Team), twenty invited athletes received intensive training for two weeks. Other visiting coaches included Olympian Chris Barlow from the San Diego Canoe and Kayak Team and Robyn Singh from the Hawaii Canoe and Kayak Team. Eligibility for this camp is determined by a series of regional qualification

events around the country and the eligibility to compete at the 2011 Junior World Championships.

The camp and qualification system proved itself at the recent Lake Placid Invitational regatta July 5-6. The young athletes attending the National Development Camp captured gold in nine events for bantam and juvenile divisions. The kayakers faired the best with wins in the women’s K1, K2 and K4 at both the 500 and 1,000 meter distances and taking the top five places in the juvenile women’s K2 500 meter race. In the bantam woman’s division, Bailey Nurmia brought home gold in the K1 1,000 meters and Katie McKeever won the juvenile women’s K1 500 meter race. On the men’s side it was Jeff Cayton taking the gold in the juvenile

K1 1,000 meters. These athletes clearly demonstrated that they are the next wave for the USA Canoe/Kayak junior and under 23 programs. Representing the U.S. at the junior world championships in Moscow are: Kayak Men K2 – Cedric Bond and Luke Potts K4 – Jared McArthur, Nick Hanoian, Ryan Stock and Zach Robertson Kayak Women K2 – Chelsea Smith and Katy Hill K4 – Cannie Ash, Morgan Smith, Giulia Anderson and Katelyn Dill Canoe Men C2 - Ian Ross and Ben Hefner

story and photo

by Pete Smith

Participants at the 2009 USA Canoe/ Kayak National Development Camp at Lake Placid, New York 24

Brothers in Arms Patrick and Ryan

Dolan discuss their

story and photos by

Joe Mann

training objectives at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. Learn about their hopes for a place on the podium in 2012 in London. See next page.


The U.S. Olympic training facility nestled in serene Chula Vista, Calif., is surrounded by soft rolling topography. The training complex is an athlete’s dream. Living that dream are brothers Patrick and Ryan Dolan. Age 21 and 18, these products of Hawaii have sprinted out of obscurity to become the “best K2 sprint team in the U.S.,” according to Nathan Luce, USA Canoe/Kayak head sprint coach. Hawaiians and paddlers are notoriously laid back, and the Dolan brothers hold true to form. They graciously agreed to meet me for an interview just two days before the second U.S. team trials. “But don’t let them fool you,” said Luce. “Both are very driven and focused.” After getting past stringent security at the gate, I drove into the complex interrupting the serenity of the park with abundant wildlife and foliage that protected the athletes from the frenzy of the outside world. I parked in a lot situated on a hill while the late afternoon sun was releasing her hold on California. With a sweet breeze coming off the water in the valley below, there is both serenity and a sort of kinetic energy to the place.

Hang loose, bruddah! The brothers met me outside, looking the part of Hawaiian waterman. Both


had battered leather sandals, board shorts and T-shirts. Their carefree hair had fallen into place without much thought. We sat down on a patio and quickly sank into easy conversation. They described the Aloha state as a different kind of place. “In the rest of the U.S.,” Ryan said, “people work, work, work, always trying to make as much money as they can. In Hawaii, people work only as much as they need to so they can have more time to do what they love.” And what the Dolan brothers love to do is paddle. As youth, they both paddled for the Lanikai paddling club, earning big points for their team every season. Both brothers later began paddling in the adult division of races when they were yet 15. “Paddling is so big in Hawaii,” Patrick said. “It’s a way of life.” Ryan added, “If we see someone with a boat on their car there, chances are we know them. We either competed with them or against them.” Growing up in Kailua, on the island of Oahu, the Dolan’s first love was the popular Hawaiian sport of outrigger canoeing. “Outrigger will always be our first love,” Patrick told me. In outrigger racing, one-, two- or sixperson teams will compete year round in races up to 30-miles long in ocean waters using single-blade paddles. “It was weird switching disciplines,” recalls Ryan. “I was used to OC paddling, so switching to a kayak was difficult at first.”

Innate ability for canoe sprint But the transition didn’t take long. Patrick first tasted success in 2005 when as a junior in high school he won a national championship in the 1,000 meter K1, the first of many to come. He came to live at the center soon after and began training with Coach Luce. Ryan, who graduated from high school just over a year ago, raced to catch his older brother. His silver medals in major international events are a testament to his ability and served notice in the international junior scene. Amazingly, he had only been paddling a K1 for fewer than 12 months. Ryan then joined Patrick in California. “When I moved up here, we got really serious,” Ryan said. “I was amazed, there was a place where I could train and live, and eat good food.” Most days, training for these athletes occurs twice a day, with a smattering of weight training, circuit training, aerobic in the offseason and interval training. The U.S. team is young; everyone is younger than age 23.

A team of buddies Currently there are fewer than 10 men on the national team that Ryan describes as surfers who all like the same music. “It’s like hanging out with friends,” Ryan said. “We push each other and we grow together. We’ve got to push each other and show the world we are good enough to deserve being where we are.” The atmosphere at the training center is unique because the team is so young. Ryan had to make the switch from living at home and going to high school to training like an Olympian. “I am sensitive to that,” Luce said. “I watch over him a little more and make sure he’s not over trained. I think he has handled it very well.” A few hours later, the Dolans joined me for dinner on the patio of a local restaurant in town. Amid bites of

chicken avocado sandwiches, they described their recent travels. “Sydney was great; in a lot of ways it is like Hawaii,” Patrick began, but then decided to work on his pile of fries. Ryan picked it up. “They’ve got the surfer mentality. They do a lot of surfing there.” Patrick was eyeing Ryan’s fries and then looked across at me instead. “Of course you get to go to nice places, but it’s more than that – you learn so much,” he reported. “You get to see other coaches, other athletes. You learn different styles. Traveling

is just a different mode. When you travel and compete, it breaks things up. Staying at the facility is great, but we need to break up the routine. We are planning to do a lot more traveling and competing next year.”

A paddler’s dream They invited me back the next day to tour the facility and observe practice. I arrived early and so we set out. The facility is amazing. There are media rooms filled with computers, televi-

see DOLANS on page 30 25 27


of circumstances. Overloading your stomach any more than this can also stress digestion resulting in nausea. You can get to a case where even one gram of sugar per minute, past a certain osmolality, serves only to increase performance inhibition and stomachrelated nausea. If your stomach can’t empty the product through absorption and metabolism, it will empty via paddling and puking. Back to sport drinks. The problem here is simple sugars. If you drink a common sport drink during the Missouri River 340, you stand a good chance of getting sick. As I said, sport drinks are isotonic – having the maximum amount of dots in them already. If you add anything more, such as a concentrated gel, you may get too many dots of sugar. Sport drinks can actually start pulling water from your body. At this stage, your body says “Nope, we’re not having that,” and out it comes. Drink plain water and you should start feeling better immediately. This is a good argument for using complex carbohydrates. If you have a stomach full of glucose dots or sucrose, lactose or even worse, high fructose corn syrup (in popular sport drinks), these dots, all added up, equal a certain amount of potential ATP or energy. If you have dots made up of complex carbohydrates, such as starches and malodextrins, you can easily achieve the same amount of potential energy available, but the number of dots can be a fraction of the glucose dots. This is a lower osmalaity, and thus a higher rate of water absorption – no paddling and puking. A paddler in a four-seat boat in last year’s Missouri River 340 gave his crew members plain baked potatoes. One may laugh, but it is a good strategy for energy absorption. The four crewmembers, which spent a lot of time in VO2 70%, drank plain water and did not get sick.


So let’s talk about a few strategies. Be aware of what you are consuming. Always think in terms of the dots. Be aware of how much plain water you need based on prior training and workouts, for your level of activity and the race conditions. Understand that what you consume for energy, be it gels, be it sport drink, be it premixed powders, be it V-8, be it Ensure, is not your hydration. It is separate. Whatever you consume, in whatever form, you must still drink the same amount of water you’d normally drink if you were eating nothing at all. This goes back to dots. You cannot let the dot concentration get too high. Strategy No. 1 – Carefully consider the form of the dots. You can put in 100 dots of glucose and get 300 ATPs. Or you can put in five dots of complex carbohydrates and get 300 ATPs, and your osmolality will be 20 times less which means your stomach will be happier. Strategy No. 2 – Nibble. If your body can only absorb one gram of glucose per minute, slow down the intake as to not overload the system. You can even successfully process fruit, such as cherries or grapes that are intensely satisfying, yet still possess the dreaded fructose, if you nibble. Breakfast bars and energy bars can work well if nibbled. Think of the food you are ingesting. For example, a banana is easy to digest, loaded with natural electrolytes, especially potassium, and full of complex carbohydrates. Something similar to V-8 Fusion, loaded with everything fruits and veggies have to offer, plus again natural food balance of electrolytes. Even a Taco Bell seven-layer burrito, nibbled, is a good choice. I do carry gel with me, but I rarely use it. It is pure glucose and dangerous with dots. However, it can be useful. A tandem partner I raced with had a sudden muscle twitching in his shoulder. I recognized it as a warning sign of

a possible cramp. Muscle cramps are simply the exhaustion of ATP. I told him to stop paddling, eat a gel, and rest for a few minutes. Remember, one gram of glucose per minute is the absorption rate, and your body will deliver it via the bloodstream in about 90 seconds (this is highly variable per person). Within four minutes he was fine and it did not reoccur. I know personally in the middle of a lot of exertion, if I eat a gel, I will immediately get nauseous, unless I follow through with at least a pint of water and dilute the dots. Lastly, I’ll discuss carbohydrate loading (and fat loading). There is currently a bit of controversy in the literature. Outside magazine had an article recently which totally discounted the advantages of carbohydrate loading. I am in that camp (as well as salt and water loading). In the book, Endurance Nutrition, 2007 there is a long chapter devoted to this misconseption. I suggest you forget the publication’s advice about the week before the race and carbo loading and eating a lot of salt so as to store extra sodium, increasing fluid intake to flood your cells with a reservoir. Do you really believe your body is suddenly going to change overnight and do this? The gurus say not to change eating habits that got you this far. While it makes no sense that you can magically store a significant amount of extra muscle glycogen by going on a special diet for a week, or even a few days from the event, I do believe your last meal prior to the event is important. If you imagine your largest breakfast you can comfortably eat, this is what you should do four hours before the event. If the event is three hours away, eath three-forths of that breakfast. Down to ¼ if it is only an hour from start. Fat. Did I say fat? As stated before, fat is chock full of future ATPs, it has even more than complex carbs. For

those in the pre-loading energy camps, almost all studies agree that fat loading will not improve performance over carbohydrate loading. Your body has been trained to use a certain amount of ATPs with your effort. That isn’t going to suddenly change just because of your diet – you will be just as fast in a given unit of time no matter what. However, now lets consider duration (as in 340 miles). Studies show that ingested fat will supply you energy longer, thus saving your stores of muscle and liver glycogen. So the last meal? For me, it’s heavy on the fats. We know that low-level activity, i.e. walking, promotes abdominal fat loss. Unfortunately, anaerobics, i.e. jogging, weight lifting, sprinting, promote muscle and liver glycogen usage. So in a race, the primary fuel your body uses is glycogen. Muscle glycogen contains 10,000 and up glucose units arranged in branched chains. Your liver also stores a useable amount. Most athletes have about 90 minutes worth of muscle glycogen. Once this is used up your body switches over to burning fat reserves and whatever carbohydrates and proteins you can get into your stomach. The resynthesis of glycogen takes almost 24 hours, so not too much of this is going to happen during the race. So at some point, early in the race, we are entirely dependent on fat reserves and what we ingest. This is why it is so vitally important to eat as much as possible, while staying just under the wire of disabling nausea, or worse, purging. It requires thought! Stay away from high fructose corn syrup especially, but also be careful with fructose. Fructose is absorbed from the gut by a process known as “facilitated diffusion” and is completely independent of the sodium/glucose transport pump. This means more dots that may or may not diffuse out of your stomach. If I drink even half-strenth sport drinks for more than 24 hours, I start getting nauseous from it. If you have as low as 0.2% fructose dots in your stomach (far less than what we consider isotonic) you can have absorption related nausea. Think of fructose as the killer. I want to emphasize that it’s really too late to make major changes in your routines prior to the Aug. 4 start of the Missouri River 340. If you have addicted yourself to electrolytes, you certainly can’t wean yourself off of them by then. The food you eat, the supplements you take, stay with what got you here and never, never try anything new on the day of the race. That is a recipe for disaster. Use winter to make your changes and start the next year’s training and see what happens. Again, we are all different, and this is something that is open to personal experiment. Variances in personal physiology makes experimentation for each athlete essential.


DOLANS sions and gaming systems – they love to jam to Rock Band. Next door is a weight training room filled with circuit stations of free weights and machines. The U.S. field hockey team was training as we walked through, and I quickly found myself envious of their biceps, shoulders and lats. The best part the facility is the boat house with two large garages filled with dozens of carbon layups, stacked on racks all the way to the ceiling. K1s, K2s and K4s of all colors. Attached to this was a room with a few old couches and training equipment which itself was adjacent to a smaller room with a large flat screen monitor linked to a computer. This was the film station where athletes review film of their practice sessions. I asked if they reviewed their practices most of the time.“Every time” was the response. I met the rest of the men’s team, including two recent Princeton University graduates with degrees in mechanical engineering, David Petrovics and


Sam Ritchie. Applying their education to their sport, they helped redesign the flywheel on the paddling ergometer in the facility. Morgan House had just finished his K1 practice and Tim Hornsby was looking for his K2 partner, Dion Maxwell. The bond and rhythm this team enjoys was apparent the moment I met them all. They are a young team, but it’s clear they are growing together. “The average age of a medalist is 27,” Luce said. “These guys have at least two Olympics to try for, and some of them, probably three or even four.” At 18, Ryan would only be 33 by his fourth Olympic games.

Oh boy, oh boy The team quickly changed donning moisture-wicking, sponsor-labeled tank tops and shorts. The Dolans invited me out on the water to paddle with them. I played it cool, but on the inside I was the freshmen who was just asked to practice with the varsity. It didn’t turn out like I expected. They picked out a boat, handed me

a paddle and said, “Let’s go.” Then the coach reminded me that I needed to sign release forms. I took a quick warm-up jog a mile uphill to the athlete check-in. I got there in about 2.4 seconds. Though the run calmed my anxiety a little, it turned out to do much more than that. It allowed the team to get out on the water and on the other side of the lake by the time I returned to the boathouse. I lifted the 20-pound carbon boat to my shoulder, snatched up the paddle and headed to the dock. No novice to paddling, I’ve logged more than 2,000 miles on the water during the last twenty-four months in pretty fast boats. I was expecting the boat to be tippy – after all, it was an Olympic K1. Yet, I had dreams of paddling right out to the middle of the lake with the boys and impressing the coach with my skills. Hell, maybe he’d even ask me to stay and train for a while, as I tapped into some unknown talent I never knew I possessed.

see DOLANS on page 34

Patrick and Ryan Dolan finishing first in the men’s 500 K2 at the second U.S. team trials at Chula Vista, Calif.

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YARBOROUGH do employ a development director, Mac Hickox, who does a terrific job of supporting clubs, organizing and improving coaches and officials and conducting camps and competitions for high-potential junior athletes. The bulk of our resources spent on sprint are to provide world class coaching, training and competition for our senior national team. This group would number fewer than twenty athletes at any time. The largest source of financial support for our sprint programs is the U.S. Olympic Committee. The USOC provides many different types of support for sprint. The largest category of USOC support is performance funding grants. These must be applied for annually and supported by a high performance plan that outlines in detail how we will achieve success in international competition. The USOC also supports a residential training program for sprint athletes at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. Besides these two large items of USOC support, some of our senior athletes receive direct athlete support payments from the USOC. These are stipends intended to help defray some of the training and travel expenses of athletes considered to have medalwinning potential. CKR: That sounds as if there is actually quite a lot of support coming from the USOC to the sprint program. Yarborough: Yes. As I’ve said we have long enjoyed very strong support from USOC. The problem is that it is declining, both in absolute terms and to an even greater extent relative to the resources of our competitors. The USOC exists to promote the values of the Olympic movement in the U.S. and to provide financial support for Olympic sports in the U.S. Our country differs from practically every


other nation in that our sports are privately funded. Neither the USOC nor any of our sports organizations receives government funding. The U.S. is also one of the few countries that attempt to compete at the highest level in every sport. There are 27 other national governing bodies for sports in the Summer Olympic Games in addition to canoe sports. USOC must provide support for all of them, plus the Winter Games sports. The USOC allocates its support based on a number of factors, but the single most important one is winning — specifically winning medals in the Olympic Games, and to a lesser extent in the Pan Am games and in World Championships. During the last six years we have earned multiple top five finishes in World Championships, but in both the Athens Games (2004) and again in Beijing last summer, we did not place a single competitor in the finals in any sprint event. This is the reason for the decline we are seeing in the levels of support we are receiving from USOC as their resources are being reallocated toward sports that are generating improving results. It’s that chicken and her egg again — we need dramatically increased resources invested in sprint to catch up to and win against our most aggressive competitors, yet we cannot realistically expect USOC to increase our funding until we can deliver tangible evidence of progress.

I ought to point out that those figures refer to absolute dollars so it’s even worse after inflation. Because so many of our competitions are in Europe, our expenses have risen far faster than the U.S. inflation rate. As a result of all this, our ability to support a sprint program that must keep up with competitors such as Germany, Hungary, Canada, China and many others is seriously constrained. CKR: You mentioned other forms of support you receive from USOC besides the Performance Funding Grants. Have they been reduced as well? Yarborough: Yes, the number of our sprint athletes receiving insurance and stipends and the amount available for those stipends have been reduced by similar percentages. We have also seen a significant reduction in the number of sprint athletes who are allowed to reside at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center. This means that other senior team athletes who want to train there with their teammates under the direction of our head coach have to live at their own expense in the very expensive San Diego area. CKR: What about sources of support for sprint beyond that from the Olympic Committee?

CKR: How deep have the reductions in funding been?

Yarborough: That is something we work at constantly. We have seen significant increases in our revenue derived from sources other than USOC grants during the past four year term leading up to Beijing. Most of these increases have come from corporate sponsorships.

Yarborough: Our Performance Funding Grants for sprint for 2009 were down nearly 40 percent from the high level we received last year and down about 20 percent from the 2006 level. Since the USOC grants continue to cover the costs of employing our national team coach and sprint development director, the real pain in these reductions has been born by our athletes who have had to cover a substantially higher portion of their own travel and training expenses.

We are not allowed to use any of the Performance Grant funds we receive from USOC for anything other than the Olympic programs. None can be used for administrative staff or expenses. We operate with a very small staff — there are three full-time people including me who are not coaches that are paid using USOC grants — and with a very lean budget. Nevertheless, keeping up with the rising costs of maintaining our office and member support functions (including liability

and accident insurance) has meant that we have not been able to increase our own revenue available for sprint by enough to offset the decreases in USOC support. The current economic decline has hit sports marketing especially hard. It is not reasonable to expect that we will be able to continue growing our sponsorship revenues at the pace we’ve achieved in the past few years. We need to focus on growing our membership and improving our ability to produce events that generate net revenues.

sport. That community is developing a truly world-class venue for rowing and canoe sprint. In addition to their course, the boathouses and the finish tower they are building, they are investing heavily in coaching, boats, camps and other elements of a successful sprint program. We are not only working hard to help our friends in OKC realize their dreams, but also to show other cities around the country how to make canoe sports a part of their community development and health programs.

Yarborough: Absolutely. We are seeing some very positive developments in our junior programs and in some of our clubs. Our under-23 talent pool is exciting.

We have joined with a large number of other Olympic sports in a partnership with USOC to promote our sports via the recently announced Olympic television network as well as via our new shared format website and new media forms. This holds great prospects for us to create both greater public awareness of sprint, but also to increase the value of what we can offer sponsors.

There is an extraordinary development underway in Oklahoma City that holds great promise for our sprint

We recently completed an intense overhaul of our governance structure. The most visible manifestation of this

CKR: You paint a pretty bleak picture. Are there any bright spots on the horizon for sprint?

is an entirely new Board of Directors that for the first time includes independent directors from outside our own membership. This is a highly experienced and dynamic group that is bringing its combined energies and talents to bear on the issue of increasing resources to support our sports. Finally, the all-important vote on October 2, 2009. That is when the International Olympic Committee will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark, to decide where to hold the 2016 Summer Games. The bid from Chicago would not only bring the Games back to the U.S. twenty years after Atlanta, but the venue plan for Chicago showcases canoe sprint in a way never seen in any Olympic Games anywhere. The sprint course will lie in Lake Michigan directly alongside Grant Park and will be the centerpiece venue for the entire games. This one decision holds the potential to forever change canoe sprint in the U.S.

Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club is host to the 2009 USA Canoe/Kayak

Sprint National Championships! August 20-23rd, 2009 Lake Lanier Olympic Venue Gainesville, Georgia

DOLANS Was anyone watching? The first sign that things weren’t going quite like I thought was when I set the kayak in the water, it rolled completely on its side. I righted the boat and nestled myself into the cockpit. With one hand still on the dock, I pushed off and promptly was in the drink. I mustered what dignity I had left and tried again. At least I got the paddle in the water that time before I capsized again. A few more valiant but vain attempts left me to consider just how amazing these athletes truly are. Not only do they sit in these boats, but they can do so while paddling at a rate of 140 strokes per minute or more, giving everything they have to the timing, the synchronization and stroke technique. They don’t even think about balance. Hanging out with the team at the boat house afterwards, we talked about the team trials scheduled the next morning. As the second trials, the men’s team was set except to determine which pair would win the honors of competing in the K2 at the world championships in August. I asked who I should put my money on. They all chuckled. I directly asked the brothers who would win in the trials. “It’s going to be close,” Ryan answered. I insisted that the brothers should win. “I’d say we have an advantage,” Patrick acknowledged. Ryan just shook his head, saying, “It’s gonna be close. Why don’t you come back and watch.” I did. I arrived at the center for the third time in three days, but the same diligent security guard still asked me for my name and ID. The 8 a.m. sun had already began to heat up the grounds. The officials were trying to find shade, and the women were preparing for their first heat by weighing their boats under the supervision of an official before taking them to the water. The men were in that mental zone that athletes often enter right before


Boat storage at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.

a game. Some were sitting, deep in thought, or perhaps trying to be empty of thought. Patrick was going over their boat one last time, making sure the tiller bar was adjusted correctly and the footbraces were tight.

What they’d been waiting for In the officials’ stand, I was able to observe the finish of each heat. The men’s K2 500 meters was set for 9:30 a.m. Finally, the men’s K2 teams were at the starting line and the gun went off. At 500 meters, I could see three small needles churning up a froth. At 300 meters, Patrick and Ryan had about a two-second lead. Then, with only 100 meters left, the other teams began closing the gap. With about 30 meters to go, one of the brothers made the slightest of mistakes, and they finished just a half a boat length ahead, or 8/10 of a second. Afterwards, as they were walking their boat up the ramp, I asked them about it. “It was just a technical mistake,” Patrick said. “Just timing. We won today, but if that had of been worlds, it would

have been over for us.” Ryan agreed, “We just need to keep working.” Driving away from the facility, I was thinking how they would do at the world championships, August 12-16 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and I remembered that Coach Luce said, “It is a true testament to their skill that they are as good as they are already.” This is Ryan’s first year in international competition as a senior, and he only had the one year as an international junior before this. “They are going up against crews with a ton more experience, and they are holding their own,” Luce said. Potential is such an empty word because an athlete may have it, but like a chemical reaction, it takes just the right mix circumstances to set it off. When asked about the Dolan brothers, Coach Luce tried to be modest, but the gleam in the corner of his eye belied his tempered words. Finally he admitted, “I don’t set limits on anyone, and if Pat and Ryan continue to progress, they are capable of winning Olympic medals.”

The Wavechaser Paddle Series presents

Aug. 21-23, 2009 Sausalito and Berkeley, Calif.

Some of the biggest names in surf ski racing from Austrailia, South Africa and Europe are coming to try to keep the title from the Americans. Complete race information at

The US Surfski Championships has new dates and new courses. The race dates have been moved up one month to the San Francisco Bay area’s windy season to take advantage of the summer afternoon winds that funnel though the Golden Gate. The single surfski long course has been changed to a point-to-point mostly downwind race. The course starts at historic Fort Baker, makes a trip out the Golden Gate to the ocean, turns on a buoy past Point Bonita, and then finishes with a long downwind run past Angle Island on the way across San Francisco Bay to the finish at OCSC Sailing School in Berkeley. In addition to challenging conditions, the course offers spectacular scenery with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, the Marin Headlands and the San Francisco skyline. 35 37

photos and story by

Joe Mann

Focused and determined The first thing I noticed when I sat down with Maggie Hogan, the top female paddler on the U.S. canoe sprint team, was her poise and composure. Most professional athletes have that sense of determination and drive, so that wasn’t the unusual thing. When compared to the rest of the U.S. team, both men and women, Hogan speaks with the steady and confident tone of a person who knows what she wants and knows what she needs to do to attain it. Of course, the fact that she is 30 years old, the senior member on the team certainly has something to do it. The rest of the team ranges from 18-23. Like many of the team, Hogan lives at the Chula Vista Olympic training center, where “sometimes I feel like I have seven younger brothers,� she laughed. But, she also concedes that even though it is a young team, there 36

is also a lot of talent.

2 in the U.S. in 2006 and 2007. And in 2008, she was second in The spritely, yet solid Hogan started paddling late in at the age the Olympic trials in the K1-500 behind Carrie Johnson.” of 25, and only first got a taste for it in 2004 a few years after That same year, Hogan teamed up graduating from the University with Johnson for the K2, winning of California—Santa Barbara. the trials and later placing second She was always athletic she said at the Pan-American Games, just and transitioned from the surf missing qualifying for the Olymski as a nine-time champion of pics by half a boat length. “That surf-lifesaving competitions, was a tough one to swallow,” and placed fifth in the woman’s Luce said. surf-lifesaving ironman world Her short term goal is to establish championships. herself as a serious Olympic conIt was in 2005 when she got serious about training for the Olympics she came to live at the training center, where “she has made huge improvements over the last four years,” said Nathan Luce, head sprint coach for USA Canoe/Kayak. “She was No.

tender. She already started that by winning the U.S. team trials July 11 in Chula Vista, and now will be competing at the world championships in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in August.

ing myself to do what I know how to do and finding that peace of mind.” Outside the athletics world, Hogan earned a degree is in biopsychology. She has been working on cancer research for the last seven years. “The company I was working for wanted me to go to work full time after Bejing,” Hogan said. But she didn’t qualify for games in 2008 and wasn’t ready to stop. “I’m not ready to hang it up. My ultimate goal is to do well at the 2012 games,” she said. Hogan thought for a few seconds, and then quickly added with a laugh, “I would love a medal.”

“Right now, what I am really working on is relaxing and allow-

Hogan winning the women’s K1 500 by two boat lengths at the second U.S. team trials at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.


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