Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Junior World Championships, Foix, France

The Podium!
Hiking outside of Foix: Just like 'The Sound of Music'
The purple boat...
Carrying up...

As I drive north to Prague, the vineyards, sunflower plots, and lavender fields of Southern France flash past my window. I leave Foix with something close to reluctance – my time there was wonderful. Training with the U.S. Junior Team and the international C1 Women was invigorating and challenging, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, along with being in such a beautiful place - nestled in the Midi-Pyrenees, with a glacial river, in an ancient town overshadowed by a castle. After over a month, I am ready to return home though. But before I move on – I will describe the results of Junior World Championships – the best race of my life.
Junior World Championships is the most prestigious event I have had the opportunity to attend, the only exception being Senior Worlds. The competitors were multiple, talented, and from all over the globe. I was fortunate enough to compete alongside the most capable C1W’s in the world, as well as to befriend them.
Prior to the races, the city of Foix hosted a jaw-dropping Opening Ceremonies. All of the Nations paraded through the center of the town, through cheering crowds. It was almost a surreal experience, and it was very fun to be there, with my team, and all of the foreign competitors.
Thursday was the Women’s Kayak and Men’s Double Canoe, so I had the day off. The following day, Friday, was Preliminary heats for Women’s Canoe, Men’s Canoe, and Men’s Kayak – I was on. I took my first run and finished devastated by a 50 second penalty. My second run wasn’t much better, although it got me into Semifinals. I finished the day disappointed – I had been anticipating a top-10 finish, and I was in 16th. I needed to clean up my act if I wanted in on Finals.
Semifinals rolled around. The course had changed slightly, although the main crux move was still in place – a heinous wave crossing leading into a deceptive off-set. I walked the course multiple times with mentors, and planned. Finally, I was ready. I took my run. It was clean with the exception of a touch, and I directly approached moves that the other girls looped around. I had made up the time I needed, and moved up to 5th – top-10, and Finals!
I approached Finals with a light heart. No matter what, I knew I was top-10. I could have a stellar run, or a poor run, and I knew I would be happy…although one always hopes to reach the podium. I realistically thought I might not make it. I recharged, and then took my finals run. I don’t know entirely what happened, but adrenaline works wonders. I dropped my time from 169 to 155. Finishing, I was happy, and past the point of caring about placement. But I miraculously clung to 1st place until the very last two paddlers, Chinese and Australian. Shocked, and overjoyed, I realized that I had a medal. Bronze!
The Medals Ceremony was lovely, and overwhelming. I’m still sort of shocked. It was definitely the competition of a lifetime.
With Gratitude,
P.S. Special thanks to Laurri and Medhi, the French International Canoe Coaches; Tom and Trish Littman, for their wonderful homes; Klasinski Clinic and Team Schierl; Darren Bush, Lili Colby, Brian Cook, Tyler Lawlor, Jim Miller, Lynn Rowe, Jessica Lynds, and Dinver McClure, for their exceptional support; My Grandmothers, for their kindness and love; and last, but not least – my wonderful, loving Parents. You are the ones that help make this happen.

1 comment:

Jean Buckley said...

Hailey: I am so proud of you, not for winning the medal, but for how you kept your head together amidst all the pressure, tough water and new surroundings. You are an inspiration to me. What an amazing person you are, I love you. Mom