‘Adrenalin City’ or ‘What Some Parents Go Through Whilst Supporting Their Children In Sports Of Their Choice’.

February 18, 2008

Over the weekend, I took my daughter Rosie up to a river in country Victoria for a slalom kayaking race. We both entered it. I had not paddled this river or anything like it for about twelve years. I have been training in slalom technique for a year now but I have never attempted to approach slalom gates on rapids before.

In a past life (before kids) I was a white water touring paddler. Slalom is very different to touring. In slalom much more precision and forward planning is required. The course was a difficult one because the Australian Institute of Sport were using it for national junior team selection. Competitors lined up from Victoria and interstate. The selectors sat on the banks filming contenders’ runs. There was quite an audience.

I wondered what on earth I was doing there. Had I been given a number greater than one hundred and thirty-one I would have chickened out for sure. As it was my number was one hundred and twenty-four. I was up before Rosie! I couldn’t chicken out. I did it for her. On my first run I missed a third of the gates (there were eighteen). But I got down the course and handled all the rapids okay. My second run was better. I still missed the hardest gate and I capsized on the second last gate and went through the last two upside down. But I rolled up and finished the course. I was thrilled. My time was way longer than any of the junior champs. And the competitors in my age group are all ex-olympians or world champs. But both of my runs were personal bests! (One because I’d never done it before, and one because I cut eighty points off my original time).

My friend Bree had come to watch. She was equally excited for me and super encouraging. She wondered if I would be awarded the gates that I went through upside down. Laughing, we went over to the score cards to check. One of Austrualia’s most famous olympians was there checking the junior contenders’ scores and he overheard our conversation.

Bree: I think you deserve to get those gates because your boat went through it. Yeah sure it was upside down, but it still went through!

Me: Um, maybe not. Oh look here’s my card. I’ve been penalized for it. I suppose your body has to go between the gates.

Famous ex-olympian: Its your head.

The famous olympian may have had a wry smile. It was hard to tell. He is a bit of a remote character.

On the second day. Rosie and I arrived after a fun night and good night sleep at Bree’s. However, we were shocked to learn that the course had been changed. We ran to check it out. It was very different and equally as difficult, perhaps even more technical in places. I had pre-race heebie jeebies like you wouldn’t believe! The self talk went something like: What the f#*k am I doing here. Inside me I was feeling like the donkey who won’t even advance towards the carrot and has to be bodily pushed forwards with its hooves churning up the ground in protest. In the water, one of the junior girls from Victoria said to me: are you going to do it? Wow, I’m so proud of you! I did a quick warm up and launched myself at it. Had it not been for Rosie I would never have done it. As it was, someting akin to primal fear came to my aid. My concentration sharpened to a point never before during a slalom run. Usually I banter with the judges as I take the gates, but this time I was one hundred percent focussed on the course.

At the end of the run I was overwhelmed. I took off my helmet and burst into tears. The women who paddled before me was very encouraging: You looked great. You’re paddling well. You can ferry glide, just get your angle right in the big rapid next time, ferry out to the first and back for the second. You’ll get those gates for sure next time.  Bree was ecstatic. I was a proud mess. I had only missed two gates and got through most of the others cleanly. I cut my previous best time in half – three personal bests in one weekend!

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