Sunday, September 13, 2009

Going for the Gold in C-1

I sat one afternoon at the takeout on the Nantahala watching a C-1 boater attain upstream. It broke two of my rules: #1 Going Upstream and #2 Paddling on your knees with just half a paddle! But hey-women are smarter and don't paddle C-1s. But as the C-1 boater headed downstream I realized it was in fact a girl! And not just any girl, but once I chatted with her I realized that this was a very determined one. Jennifer Singletary is a female C-1 boater with aspirations to win gold in the newly-formed Women's Canoe Event. The Women's Canoe Event is a big deal because there has never ever been a Women's C-1 event. But this year it was added to the International Canoe Slalom program and just this past week was a demonstration event at the World Championships.

I again ran into Jennifer at the Gates on the river and asked her to take time out of her training routine to share her ambitions in this new event that is gaining attention in the international field of canoe & kayak competition.

A C-1 boater and with big ambitions. Where did this come from Jennifer?

J- I'm originally from South Carolina, but I've lived in a bunch of different places on the East coast. Right now, I am working on my PhD in Ancient Mediterranean Religion from Brown University in Rhode Island-- there's not a lot of whitewater here, but I have plenty of flatwater and I'm pretty close to some rivers with slalom courses in other states.

What inspired you to get into a C-1?

J- I first hopped into a C-1 (or awkwardly climbed into one!) last summer, in 2008. I've kayaked occasionally for many years, but I didn't get serious about paddling until I came down to spend the summer with my brother in North Carolina. My first few times paddling with a single blade on the Nantahala River were in a C-2 race boat-- I got hooked on the gates but my C-2 partner kept bailing on me, so I borrowed his old C-1 instead! His name is Philip Young-- he works with the Nantahala Racing Club. I ended up actually buying that boat from him (he gave me a good deal!) and having it cut down to the new specs, at 3.5 meters. Wayne Dickert was also a big inspiration for me when I started paddling C-1-- he still is a major motivating force for my training. He taught me how to roll, and he pushes me to get on bigger water, like the Ocoee. He was really great when I competed at the US Open last spring, encouraging me and helping me learn how to compete.

What is the most challenging part of paddling C-1 and training for competition?

J - Paddling flatwater. It can get really boring, but you need to train on it to race well. I was never really into lifting weights before I started training to race C-1, but now I usually try to lift three times a week. For me, it is challenging to eat well enough to stay strong-- I'm a terrible cook!

How supportive has the USCKT been towards Wmns C-1 as a new class?

J - A lot of people are very supportive of C-1W-- Joe Jacobi was just in Seu at the Worlds, and he posted Facebook updates about the C-1W's. I personally have received a ton of support from the Nantahala Racing Club and their coach Rafal Smolen, who has been helping me out with training. It's tough to get a new class started, especially working out what the standards are going to be. You want the class to be competitive, but you want to encourage participation too.

How supportive have the other women been that you have encountered in the races?

J - The other C-1W's are amazing! Hailey Thompson and Colleen Hickey both raced in the Glacier Breaker and US Open in 2009, and they were awesome to hang out with and train for the race with. It is all supportive in the eddies above and below the course!

There is a 15 year old that appears to be major competition. Is she inspiring you?

J - You must mean Hailey Thompson. She is definitely tough competition-- she has been racing C-1 for a while, and she is a fantastic paddler. There are several other C-1W's in the US right now who are racing really well too. Three women from the US went to World's this month, and they all placed in the top 15! I admire Hailey for her dedication to the sport and for encouraging other girls to get into canoes. She is also just a really fun girl. I don't think I would have had the discipline at her age to compete in slalom. I don't see my age as a bad thing though, especially in a new class like this. I think that being older helps my ability to focus.

What is your favorite way to wind down after a hard day of training?

J - More training! Actually, I fall asleep pretty early after a long session or two. I like to eat a good meal, and watch a movie. Frequently I have to work on school stuff after I train.

Wow-thanks so much for taking time out of a very busy schedule Jennifer. The best of luck to you! We will be following your progress :-) Joe gave us a good link to check out.

J - For a new class like C-1W slalom to succeed, we need all the support we can get! Thanks helping to get the word out about the sport!

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