Hall County’s Olympic rowing and paddling venue is getting a visit from some elite athletes from north of the border this week.
Between 130 and 160 athletes from Canoe Kayak Canada will begin arriving later this week for its Olympic Team Trials, to be held Saturday and Sunday at the Lake Lanier course on Clarks Bridge Road.
"The venue in Gainesville is one of the best in the world," CKC General Director Anne Merklinger said in an e-mail. "Canada has held many important competitions at this venue and we have a high level of comfort, confidence and familiarity with the course, the people and the city."
The team is coming to America for their trials because the weather in Canada this time of year is unsuitable for holding such a competition, Merklinger said.
The Canadian team held its national team trials last year at Lake Lanier.
In addition to the athletes, about 35 officials and staff from Canoe Kayak Canada and about 100 local volunteers are expected to take part in the event. Most of the National Team boats will arrive Thursday.
Members of the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club were putting the finishing touches on the course this weekend."It’s the first time we’ve had a local crew put the Olympic course together, so that’s been exciting," trials director Connie Hagler said. "It’s coming together very nicely."
The event is free and open to the public. A concession stand will be provided.
Also, the boat ramp at Clarks Bridge Park will be closed Saturday and Sunday for the event. The area of the course will remain open, but boats should proceed at no wake speed during breaks in the competition. Boaters should use caution in the area, as the course has been installed.
Merklinger said the Canadians appreciate the Lanier club’s hospitality and "superb competition hosting infrastructure."
Much like the recent U.S. team qualifiers held in Oklahoma City, competitors will vie for a chance to compete in the continental qualifiers to be held next month in Montreal, with a trip to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing on the line.