Paddle Pathways – Get to know sprint kayaker Pierre van der Westhuyzen

Pierre van der Westhuyzen is the youngest member of the Australian men’s sprint kayaking team, but that doesn’t stop him from having his sights firmly set on the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

It’s a sport that has kept the 20-year-old busy for a number of years, but it was his big brother’s success that ignited  the Olympic dream within him.

“Paddling has always been a sport that I’ve done, I started really early through school,” van der Westhuyzen said.

“Around the time when I moved over to Australia in 2020 was when I realised that this was something that I wanted to take really seriously. 

“I got a lot of inspiration from [my brother] Jean and seeing how well he had done when he came over to Australia and I made the decision then that this is something I could see in my future. 

“Ever since then, in a sport like kayaking, the ultimate dream is the Olympics and I think the Olympic gold medal is the pinnacle of our sport…Paris is definitely a big goal for me,” he said.

Van der Westhuyzen finds himself in a unique position, sharing his passion of kayaking with his older brother and Olympic gold medalist Jean van der Westhuyzen. He said the bond they share is something that’s inspiring him to follow in the footsteps of his older brother.

“It’s something I’m really lucky to have, to have someone in the family that’s already been through the start of their own journey in this sport,” Pierre said.

“He’s [Jean] helped me see how I can approach my journey. We’re not the exact same athlete…I’d say we are pretty different, but there’s still a lot I can learn from him and just to have him there, and see that it is possible [to succeed] is a really big help for me,” he said.

The South African born Australian athlete has just wrapped up his second season on the Australian team, an honour he says he doesn’t take lightly.

“It’s a huge privilege, I’m super lucky to be here and to have this opportunity,” van der Westhuyzen said.

“There’s so many people that would love to have this opportunity to be here, and to represent such a great country, and I’m just one of the people that’s lucky enough to do it. 

“Every time I pull on the uniform that’s something I realise and that I’m grateful for. I love the opportunity to wear the green and gold,” he said.

Van der Westhuyzen has recently returned home to the Gold Coast, after being part of the Australian team that topped the medal tally at the 2023 World Championships.

Having been part of the crew that qualified the quota for the men’s K4 500, van der Westhuyzen is working hard to secure his spot on the Australian team for next year’s Olympic Games.

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