When the ICF Sprint World Cup competitions open today in Ranice, Czech Republic, the presence of the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club will be felt, as four of its members will represent Team USA.
LCKC competitors’ Morgan House, Ben Hefner, Alejandro Schwedhelm and Robert Finlayson are among 17 paddlers representing Team USA for the event, a precursor to the World Championships that serve as an Olympics qualifier.
The 2012 Olympics will be held in London.
“The World Cup is a good way to compare yourself to the rest of the 40 countries and have an idea of what’s going to happen in the World Championships,” LCKC club coach Claudiu Ciur said. “They’ve been trying very hard, and they’re very committed.”
Team USA has been in Italy for a week, tapering and training for the World Cup. House, who will compete in the K-4 and K-1, expects his teams to do well in their events.
“We have a strong team in the K-4,” House said. “We’re faster than any team I’ve been a part of, but at the same time, all of these teams are strong. If we can make the top nine (which puts them in the A-Final), that would be very good for us.
“That’s what we’re shooting for.”
House considers an A-Final finish a “very doable task,” with teammates Pat Dolan and twins Luke and Jake Michael completing the unit. Their best time to date in the K-4 is three minutes and four seconds, and House believes to crack the top nine, three minutes is the time to best.
The team has been training together since February.
“We do everything together,” House said. “We’re all great friends, and it’s a good dynamic. We’re four guys who believe in each other and who want to be here. Last year, not everyone wanted to be here.”
Training in Italy has been less intense as the team tries to peak on race days. Thursday was the last day before the World Cup, and the team went through its race warm-ups, paddling the course at 70 percent, then took it easy, watching movies and relaxing.
“We’re all just trying to stay focused,” House said.
Ciur is confident Team USA will do well.
“They’re ready, and they have a chance,” he said. “The whole team is in better condition and has a better chance than in years before. They’re still young, but they feel the pressure and everyone has the goal to be an Olympian.”
This weekend’s event is the second of three World Cup competitions. Team USA skipped the first event in Poznan, Poland, but will participate in next weekend’s final event in Duisburg, Germany. After this weekend’s races,
Team USA will stay in the Czech Republic until Tuesday, then leave for Germany. They’ll return to the states May 30.
The World Championships are Aug. 18-21 in Szeged, Hungary. It is one of two events in which the United States can qualify boats for the Olympics.
“We’re really excited,” House said. “We’ve been training for a year, and now we’re ready to get out there and race.”