Athletes from Canoe Kayak Canada paddled 500-meter and 1,000-meter sprints in kayaks and skinny canoes Saturday and Sunday at Clarks Bridge Park.
Connie Hagler, the local director for the Canadian trials, said this year marks at least the third time Canadian paddlers have used the Lake Lanier Olympic venue for Olympic trials.
She said this weekend’s racing event is one of the last steps the Canadian athletes must endure as they vie for some of the 240 Olympic spots available to flatwater kayak and canoe paddlers worldwide.
Winners of these 28 races earn a chance to qualify in the upcoming world championships and the continental qualifier in Montreal later this month, Hagler said.
Phil Sutton served as an official of the U.S. Canoe/Kayak Association for the races, and said Canada is one of the leading paddling teams in the world, consistently ranking at the top, alongside Hungary and Germany.
"These folks are focused on getting to Beijing," Sutton said. "It’s awesome if you make the Olympic team from one of the dominant countries, because it’s so selective."
Adam van Koeverden emerged as a top paddler of the weekend and earned himself a nomination to the Canadian Olympic team.
"(Koeverden) is the defending world champion for the 500 meter, and he’s the defending Olympic champion for the 500 meter," said Peter Giles, vice chairman of the Canadian team’s high-performance committee.
Hagler added that four local athletes could compete at the Olympics alongside the Canadian team. Tim Hornsby, Emily Mickle, Morgan House and Katie Hagler will be representing the United States in the Montreal continental qualifier.
The races and sunny weather drew a small crowd of spectators to the lake’s shore Sunday. They watched paddlers sprint through buoys to the finish line where high-tech cameras captured each one-thousandth of a second of the event.
The four-person kayak teams can paddle up to 18 miles per hour, said Barry Ring, a technical coordinator for the Canadian team. He added that the low water levels at the venue did not impede the trials because the races take place in deep waters.
"The four-person kayaks can actually pull a water skier," Ring said.
Hagler said the races went off without a hitch.
"This is one of the best events we’ve ever run. We’ve had probably 110 volunteers," she said.
"(The Canadians) come here because it’s warmer and because they’ll know we’ll do a good job for them."
John Goddard, assistant maintenance supervisor for Hall County Parks and Leisure Services, said county parks employees have spent the last two weeks preparing the beaches and racing venue for the event.
Canadian racing officials said the technical service and social aspects of the trials were all top notch.
"Everything we need is superior — the technical organization and the weather," said Anne merklin, director general of the race. "It’s just been perfect racing conditions."