The 2018 international season is over and the Paddle Dogs Australia crew have finished up with the final event in Celje, Slovenia with a great weekend. The final World Cup was completed in front of a large, passionate crowd with the finals being run under lights at night time.
I started the day with a solid first run that put me as the 3rd fastest qualifier and automatic progression to the final. Alex had to go around a second time, by which he put down an amazing effort on this short sprint course and improved first run time by over a second. The score board had some issues during the men’s K1 second runs and in the unofficial announcement his name was called as one of the top 10 to qualify for the final. Unfortunately, when the glitch was finished and the official print out was put on the notice board, it had Alex as 11th which was a hard pill to swallow.
The final was an awesome spectacle. There were a few thousand fans lined along the bank with cameras, music and even a hot air balloon being lit up on the other side of the river. I had been in this situation two years’ prior, in 2016 when this same venue hosted a World Cup. I had fallen short of a medal by the smallest of margins and I wanted to make sure I didn’t leave Celje wondering. Despite my best efforts and even improving my first run time I still fell short, finishing in 7th position. It hurt quite a lot. Another season finished and medals that still allude me. I know I am capable, but so is a large group of men that are constantly raising the level in the sport.
The week prior I caught the eddy in my second run in Banja Luka and missed out on a finals birth altogether. It’s a hard sport to always show perfection and I had to shake it off and move on. Alex, on the other hand performed really well in the big volume Vrbas river. He qualified himself for the final and finished with a satisfying 11th place.
I think Alex is sometimes underestimated on his ability but his comfort and composure in bigger water is something I envy. That was a small taste of what he is capable of and if we have more races on big, difficult whitewater, I know he would excel and be the man to beat.
I’ve really enjoyed being on the road and now as the Paddle Dogs Australia trio with Alex and Courtney. This new approach to racing and marketing has been quite interesting in the respect of showing more professionalism. In the past we have been pretty loose with our plans and promotion which was always what was letting us down. I love learning and facing challenges. Even though we have our social media going really well it is still very hard to be mobile on the road. We’ve done our best and thank you to everyone who is following us and showing interest in this beautiful sport!
Lastly, I want to make mention to our Australian team. Kaylen Basset really lifted and showed great promise for the future. I’m so proud that we were able to put ourselves out there and almost create an upset in the team’s sprint at the World Championships. A 4th place is something we can really build on going forward!
Our women’s kayak representatives of Dita Pahl and Genie Collin showed some real progression in their own abilities and are throwing themselves in and amongst the European contingent.
Madi Wilson, our sole canoe paddler this year, has stepped up for her first senior tour. She is constantly improving and is a real prospect for the next few years in U23 competition. It was cool to see Genie and Madi race the women’s C2 in Celje, a real proud moment for Paddle Australia as we build and expand our sport across all of the categories.
We also got to see Ben Stremecki and Ryan Hughes compete as forerunners. They are part of a keen future generation that really excites me!
Courtney and I are now kicking back in Croatia for a nice sailing holiday before we return home at the end of the month. I look forward to enjoying a bit of time off and start to plan for next year. The Australian Wildwater season in January/February has some exciting events coming to life!