Rubbing Shoulders with Champions

On Sunday the 1st of July, eight of the best sprint paddlers in Victoria took time out from their busy training schedule to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with members of the St. JosephÕs Kayaking Team. Most members of the visiting Mercantile Kayak Team have represented Australia overseas and some have even taken part in the Olympic Games. Coach Tim Altman is one of the key people behind the development of canoeists in Victoria for the next ÒworldsÓ and Beijing in 2008. He and his paddlers were up in Echuca to clock up some kilometres as part of their winter training program. On Saturday they paddled down to Echuca Village from Picnic Point, and then were out again for another 30km on Sunday.

The eight sprint paddlers, together with Cameron McMullen (who has just returned after successfully competing in the World Marathon Championships in Denmark) made it a weekend to remember for the paddlers of the St. JosephÕs Kayaking Team. As well as video analysis of their own technique, students were invited to paddle with members of MercantileÕs sprint team in K2Õs and TK2Õs where they received personal coaching. ÒIt was awesome, it was so, so goodÓ, said Katrina Thompson, ÒI learnt so muchÉ and they really made me work hardÓ. Some students were presented with the opportunity to paddle with members of the sprint team in a K4, a 4 man kayak capable of sustained speeds well over 20km/hr. ÒI was surprised that a team and coach of their standing would make time for a group of country kids like ours. We work hard, we have our heart in our training and in the competitions we take part in, but these individuals are in another leagueÓ, said Coach Peter Phillips. These are experiences our kids will not forget in a hurry. They have brushed shoulders with champions and have been taken seriously by them regardless of the difference in experience and ability. Perhaps one day, they too may choose to train towards representing their country in one way or another. In the meanwhile, we feel all the more motivated to be in the best shape we can be for our main goal, the 404 km Red Cross Murray River Canoe Marathon at the end of the year.

Tim Altman said that it was a good experience for his paddlers. As elite athletes it is easy to forget where you started. For a sport to succeed you need to look after your base. These young sportsmen and women are role models for the youth in their sport. In the years ahead they will have to do this quite a bit.

Tim Altman had this advice for students, ÒGet out and train as often as you can, at least three times a week, supplement this with jogging, swimming and gym. As you get closer to the marathon, get out onto the water everyday. For those new to the sport he said, ÒGet out on the water as often as you can. Nothing beats time on the water. A person who trains one or two times a week will improve, but nowhere near as fast as someone who is consistently out three times a week.Ó

The St. JosephÕs Kayaking Team is now actively seeking sponsors to help cover the cost of equipment and the $2,000 entry fee assigned to each team by Red Cross. Like the ÒMurray to MoyneÓ, the Red Cross Murray River Canoe Marathon is a fundraising event. All money raised goes to Red Cross VictoriaÕs ongoing community projects. Each student in the team is aiming to raise around $200 at a dawn to dusk non-stop paddle on Saturday, the 28th of July, with sponsorship being either a set amount or per kilometre paddled. The team is also seeking sponsorship from local businesses to cover on-going costs and thanks those who have helped the team to establish over the past three years. ÒIt has been a real community effort. So many kids have benefited from this program, through improvement in fitness and confidence they have become much more resilient,Ó said Coach Phillips. Anyone interested in being a sponsor, or finding out more should contact Peter Phillips 54825646 or email .