Windy and cool conditions greeted competitors on the Opening Day of the Paddle Australia Canoe Sprint Championships in Adelaide.
While it was cold on the water, the racing was red hot with Australia’s Olympic athletes headlining the program.
The opening races of the day saw Tokyo Olympic debutants Tom Green and Jean van der Westhuyzen, taking out the U23 K2 500.
Van der Westhuyzen said that despite not being able to travel overseas for regular competition as they would in a normal Olympic preparation, their training has put them in good stead to perform at Nationals – the last hit out before they head to Japan.
“I think it’s really good to be here racing – usually we’d be racing World Cups in Europe so to come here and get some racing under our belt 11 weeks out from Tokyo is good I think,” Van der Westhuyzen said.
“Everything is on track and going well – but there’s still quite a lot of work to go with just over 60 days to go.
“This (Nationals) is a nice stepping stone leading into Tokyo, there’s still a lot of hard work to be done once we’re back on the Gold Coast. But it feels like we’re on track, and we’re getting better each week so it’s good signs,” he said.
Sydney Northern Beaches Kailey Harlen teamed up with Avoca’s Ella Beere to deliver a win in the U23 Women’s K2 500, crossing the line 0.04 seconds in front of their NSWIS team mates Jemma Smith and Georgia Sinclair.
“We’re kind of used to Adelaide being a bit unpredictable – but the main thing for us was just going out there and focusing on the race, not thinking too much about the conditions or being nervous,” Harlen said.
“We just tried to put out a good race, and it was really nice because the U23 K2 is a direct final so you only get one chance to do it.
“We’re very happy with that race – it was close but it was good. The more racing we can do at the moment, the better,” she said.
Riley Fitzsimmons cruised through the men’s K2 500 heats with his Olympic team mate Jordan Wood, the pair enjoying being back racing together.
“It’s super exciting to be back racing, we haven’t had much going on for a little bit now – I think it’s been six weeks since our last race,” Fitzsimmons said.
“So it’s really good to get some racing in before we head to Tokyo in 11 weeks,” he said.
Wood added that the Nationals provide a good opportunity for the Sprint team to test out established combinations in the K2 and K4 races.
“The times you need to win, and the times you need to perform are still quite similar,” Wood said.
“I think that’s really good for us, because we’ve all got a lot of experience and we all know where we want to be, and the times we need to do to be in contention at the Olympics,” he said.
The 2021 Paddle Australia Canoe Sprint Championships will continue tomorrow, with the first race commencing at 8am ACST (local Adelaide time).
The livestream will be back online tomorrow! Catch every race of day two via the Paddle Australia Facebook page – click here
For full results from day one – click here
To view the race schedule – click here