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Experiences on the river and beyond

Friday, 13 September 2013. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Experiences on the river and beyond

Adrian Cole takes on the slalom course at the national kayak championships in Kananaskis. Photo by Michelle Taylor.

Experiences on the river and beyond

By Brad Quarin

Three local kayakers gained a world of experience in July, competing in Slovakia before making successful appearances in the national championships at Kananaskis.

“I had loads of fun, it was a really great experience,” says Veronica Oczkowski of Beaver Mines.

She and Ryley Penner of Lundbreck performed on the national junior team for athletes under 18 in the world slalom championships. Adrian Cole, a Blairmore native now based in Calgary, was on the under-23 national team.

Veronica says she stayed at an apartment building in Slovakia, paying for part of it with help from CanoeKayak Canada. The room, though small, was just right for three weeks.

For Ryley and Veronica, the stay was an opportunity to get to know their Canadian teammates better. Ryley notes they shared rooms and cooked together. “We really became friends,” he says.

They all enjoyed simply being in Liptovský Mikuláš, Slovakia.

“Beautiful country; I loved it there,” Adrian says. The people were lovely and the food was good – mostly, he ate goulash.

Culturally, the language was different, but many people there could speak English.

Ryley, who had never been to Europe before, describes the architecture in the small mountain community as “super cool” and old-fashioned.

Veronica found the course well built and challenging. The waters were faster and the course narrower, quite different than what she usually sees.

Ryley says he became ill during the race, which affected his results but had “a great experience” in the biggest competition of his life.

Adrian isn’t too preoccupied with the results. Overall, it was a good time. “Every year, you meet new friends and new people, and that’s what I love about it so much,” he says.

There were 700 boats registered, making it one of the biggest international races ever.

Although the local kayakers weren’t able to crack the top half of the standings in their classes, they represented themselves and their country well.

After returning home, the trio competed in  the national championships in Kananaskis, where they all did well. The floods this year damaged the courses, but Ryley’s stepdad, Chuck Lee, helped repair them.

Ryley placed fourth overall. In fact, he says, Alberta received the most points of any province.

Veronica says she was “really surprised” to receive two golds in downriver racing as she hadn’t done a great deal of training for this. One placing was in a 10-minute race and the other in a two-minute sprint.

In his age category, Adrian placed third in slalom, and he placed eighth overall. “I was really happy with how I was paddling there,” he says.

There’s little rest in this sport. Veronica went right back to training with Samuel Wey, an instructor from France. She feels she has improved with his knowledgeable help. She plans to continue competing, but at a lower level.

Ryley says he’s concentrating on doing better in the provincial championships in September, also in Kananaskis, and the worlds in April, in Australia.

Having enjoyed a vacation in the Dominican and a birthday celebration in Crowsnest Pass, Adrian says he’s back in his “insane life,” training in his boat. After the provincials in Kananaskis, he’ll still be lifting weights and training over the winter.“We don’t really have an off-season,” he says. Adrian is also bound for Australia.



Veronica Oczkowski is almost hidden behind the white water at Kananaskis. Photo by Rfort Photo.



Ryley Penner is back home at Lundbreck Falls after competing in the world kayak championships in Slovakia and the national championships in Kananaskis. Photo by Brad Quarin.



From the Sept. 4/13 print edition of Shootin’ the Breeze.
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