Snappy Exit

Thoughts on Canoeing and Amateur Sport

Let Kaillie Race Because She is a Unique Human Being

Kaillie Humphries is mad because she cannot compete in the 4 person bobsleigh events on this year’s World Cup circuit. She is (apparently) framing this as gender discrimination:

“I’m mad,” Humphries, a two-time Olympic champion in the women’s event, said Wednesday. “This sucks. I’m being told I can’t do something, because I’m a girl.”

Sara Story (President at Bobsleigh Skeleton Canada) is also mad.

“It’s an outrageous accusation that we’re standing in her way because she’s a woman,” Storey said. “Canada has pioneered in women’s bobsleigh since well before there was any chance of it becoming Olympic.”

Ms. Story’s justification is:

The decisions on World Cup spots are based solely on performance and results, Storey said. This season, Humphries and her new team of Lascelles Brown, Luke Demetre and Dan Sunderland finished third in the selection races behind sleds piloted by Kripps and Chris Spring. So if Humphries wants to continue driving the four-man sled, she’ll need to compete this year on the development circuit.

I agree with Ms. Humphries on one thing, this does indeed suck, but this doesn’t look like gender discrimination to me based on the facts that I have seen so far which are:

  1. The International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) gave Canada three spots on the World Cup Circuit.
  2. Ms. Humphries piloted the third fastest sled in Canadian qualifying.
  3. Not enough brakemen reached the Canadian qualifying standard (push standard) to field more than one sled.

That’s the nuts and bolts of the decision and that is why Ms. Humphries’ team is being denied an entry.

I’ll also point out that the position of the BSC is that Ms. Humpries four-person sled can compete on the Development Circuit if they choose to do so. Unfortunately that means that Ms. Humphries gives up her World Cup spot where she is certainly favored to medal in the Women’s events. What a choice for an athlete (an Olympic Gold Medalist!) to have to make.

Ms. Humphries is currently using her twitter feed to justify the gender discrimination accusation.  There’s some good arguments being made about how past gender discrimination took away any development opportunities she could have had in this event.  Overall though, based on the facts, I don’t think her accusation against BCS is valid, but I do encourage you to read through the posts.

Having said all of that, I think that she should be allowed to race on the World Cup in the four-person bobsled.  That would be the best outcome for her sport as it would allow her to continue preparations for the Olympics in her best event, while also allowing her to develop new skills and put her in a better position to win more medals in the Women’s 4 (starting in 2017).

We need to acknowledge that Ms. Humphries’ four-person team is not good enough to meet the criteria and that it is a “development team“. Then what we should be talking about is why the BCS cannot make an exception in this case and send a development team to the World Cup. It is a unique situation, involving unique human beings that should have a unique solution. It is a time when creative problem solving can lead to a win-win situation instead of a win-lose situation.  But BCS has Criteria and Criteria must be followed. Its a problem that plagues every Canadian Sport Federation and we should be talking about it.

I worry that by raising the gender discrimination accusation Ms. Humphries has effectively ended the rational discussion that should take place and replaced it with an emotionally charged discussion that no one will be able to back down from.


Spirit of Sport – And Selection Headaches

The Gilmore Junio / Denny Morrison story is one of my new favorite moments in Olympic history.  For Mr. Junio to put aside his own pride and allow the faster competitor to race is an example of the approach that I hope my own children always take towards sport (Gilmore, if you knew me at all you would know that is absolutely the highest praise that I can give to you). The fact that Mr. Morrison could go out, lay down a tremendous race and come away with a silver medal, is a testament not only to his speed, but to his mental toughness as well. He was facing the same tremendous pressure to perform that he always did, with the added bonus of having to go out and not disappoint a teammate who just made an incredibly selfless sacrifice.  Denny Morrison is truly a phenomenal athlete.

But why did these two skaters end up in this situation in the first place?

I can’t find the Olympic Selection Criteria for Speed Skating Canada online, but from what I can deduce it would seem that Speed Skating:

  1. Had previously qualified a certain number of athletes for each race (likely through some combination of World Championship / World Cup results and overall World ranking).
  2. Held one Canadian Olympic Selection race, and simply picked the fastest skaters on that day to fill the spots that they had previously qualified.

Denny fell in his 1000m qualifying race and so, did not get the Olympic spot for that distance – even though he was clearly the best man for the job.

This is an example of what I like to call Selection Arrogance.  That is, by holding selection in this one-and-done manner Speed Skating Canada basically said, “Our skaters are so great, that we don’t really care if our number one skater stumbles in one race and fails to qualify, our number two skater is just as good.”  In fact it’s even worse.  Canada had four entries in this race, so Speed Skating Canada’s underlying assumption behind the selection criteria is that the number five skater is interchangeable with number one.

I’ve seen this before (famously Dan O’Brien) and I always think it stinks. Don’t get me wrong, athletes need to compete to show they are deserving of a spot on the team, and in some events it is actually true that we wouldn’t care whether we sent our best or second best athlete to compete. But in the vast majority of cases we need to make sure that we are making the right decision about the team, and we cannot allow our best to sit on the sidelines because of a single error on a single day.  There are all kinds of ways to achieve this – hold multiple selection trials, incorporate World Cup results into the selection, allow for some coach’s discretion – and many other sports use these methods. They create more complications, but in the end I think they create a stronger team.

The media is doing a great job at telling the story of Gilmore and Denny, they are being applauded all over the world, and they deserve to be.  Now its time for the media to question Speed Skating Canada about why this was allowed to develop in the first place.

Top Arm Drive

I had a chance today to do a bit of technique work with Thomas Hall.  Not the Olympic medalist who has been a subject on other posts, but the son of my lifelong coach Tony.  For those who have seen Thomas, you’ll know that he paddles very well and that his great technique has led to successful results.  Tony had me come down and have a look, he was hoping that I could give some advice on Thomas’ hip movement and how to use that movement to get more weight on the paddle at the catch.

What we saw is that Thomas was way ahead of us.  He’d been working hard in Florida on improving his hip movement and neither Tony or I could find much to say about the hips.  Of course we’d never let a chance for improvement go to waste, so we started picking on Thomas’ top arm.  There is a bit of a hitch in Tom’s top arm just before the catch, like he is trying to load up the power and hit the water.  My advice to Tom was to hold the arm strong and use the body weight to accelerate the boat.  Here’s why:

  • Shoulder and Arm are Weak

You can gain some quick acceleration from hitting the water hard with the top arm, but the endurance of those muscles is short and once you have exhausted the energy that they have you won’t even be able to support your body weight on the catch and depending on the length of the race, you will suffer.

  • You will Hurt Yourself

The shoulder is in a very precarious position when you are fully extended for the catch.  Whenever you try to hit the water hard using the shoulder, you inevitably lift and then lower the shoulder.  This creates a lot of stress on the joint and will lead to injuries if not corrected.

  • Bodyweight is Most Efficient

Your body can drop 200 pounds of force onto the catch with every stroke just by being there.  Tony used to call this free energy.  Of course the physicist in me knows that there is no such thing as free energy, but this is as close as you can get.

The second lesson here is that dock paddling is a very useful tool underutilized by most coaches.  Where else can you actually correct movements while they are happening – so when your coach tells you to get a bun and meet back the dock after practice, DO IT.

Don’t forget to check out my Cold Weather Paddling Store.  My slogan is, “If you’re going to buy the stuff, why not here?”


Cold Weather Paddling – Then and Now

My first experience with cold weather paddling was when I was 11 or 12 years old and Tony Hall had us training for Juvenile War Canoe in May.  I showed up in my regular paddling gear – shorts and t-shirt.  I quickly realized that, even though the sun was shining and it felt pretty warm, the water on my skin was freezing.  So, the next time I wore a big jacket.  It got soaked and I could hardly lift my arms.

We were always told about the danger of cold weather paddling, but I don’t think anyone ever took it really seriously until they actually fell into the water.  I know I didn’t.  I remember one year Tamas Buday was in town for some coaching sessions.  He was paddling with me and Craig O’Leary on Lake Echo and Craig went in the water.  Tamas had a trick that he knew to help Craig back in his boat – but we messed it up and in the end Tamas and Craig were both in the water.  We had a good laugh later, but if we had’t been so close to shore it could have been a real disaster.

I can’t remember falling in cold water myself until I was about 25 and living in Victoria.  I paddled through the Gorge during low tide, and when I came back the tide was rushing through toward me.  I went as fast as I could trying to beat the current, but I stalled, my boat turned and suddenly I was in the water.  Worst of all my boat was rushing away from me, and so was my paddle.  Luckily, again, I was close to shore and there was another paddler behind me to catch my boat.  No harm done.

People do stupid things when they are young.  I have paddled on my own on the Northwest Arm in the middle of winter.  I have broken through the ice to get to open water.  I would have failed the CKC Cold Weather Safety Code for sure.

Anyway, I thought I would take this opportunity to remind everyone to stay safe in the cold.  Also, have a look at some of personal recommendations for cold weather gear at my new Cold Weather Paddling Store (by amazon, of course).

What Bothers Me Most About the IOC

I just read the news that Wrestling has been removed from the 2020 Olympic program.  Personally I think that stinks as wrestling has much more validity as a competitive sport than others that remain untouched.  But really, the decision is being made by people we trust to see the bigger picture and make decisions for the good of sport and the Olympic movement so my personal views (and yours) have very little bearing.

However, reading through the various articles I came across a few quotes that sum up why this kind of decision makes me so very angry.

From the National Post:

The IOC program commission report analyzed more than three dozen criteria, including television ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping policy and global participation and popularity. With no official rankings or recommendations contained in the report, the final decision by the 15-member board was also subject to political, emotional and sentimental factors.

No official rankings that we can see to decide who should be taken out, means there is no way for wrestling to know how to get back in.  It also means that the IOC is free to do what it wants based on the whims of the executive board.


the decision was made by secret ballot over several rounds, with members voting each time on which sport should not be included in the core group.

So not only can members vote their personal biases, we can’t even hold them accountable for the decisions that they make.   This should not be tolerated in a democratic organization.

What’s my solution?  I’m announcing my candidacy for IOC President.  You can’t actually vote for me and I can’t actually win, but if you elected me I would make this process clear and transparent because I actually care about sport and the Olympics and not just about being on the IOC.

Paddles Up

John Wood has died.

I was four years old when John Wood stood on the podium at the Montreal Olympics and accepted his silver medal for the C-1 500m.  I did not watch the race, I do not remember the race.  In fact, I don’t recall ever seeing John Wood race a canoe.  However, he is a legend in our sport and he was an inspiration to me at every stage of my athletic career.

When I was 8 or 9 years old I was introduced to canoeing through this video.  Watch it.

This video influenced my entire outlook on sport.  The words that I tried to live by my whole life were the first words I heard John speak:

“The thing that I like most about paddling in a race is winning…but that’s not necessarily what I enjoyed most about paddling”

Throughout my early racing career there were lots of role models and heroes for me to follow.  Larry Cain, came to Orenda in 1984 and inspired us with his medals from Los Angeles.  Tony Hall inspired us as  young athletes to strive to be the best.  Renn Crichlow showed me that Canadians can indeed be the best in the world in canoe (or kayak).  But through it all was the legend of John Wood.  He who had almost beaten the mighty Eastern Bloc, who had come within inches of claiming Gold for Canada at home.  I had never met him, never seen him race and so he was even more of a legend than all of the others.

The first time I actually saw John Wood he was standing with Larry Cain on the top of the hill at Rideau.  I was 13 or 14 and I remember thinking how cool it was that two Olympic medalists were standing there together.  I wouldn’t get a chance to meet John for almost two decades, and only briefly at a barbecue in Florida.  I had a medal of my own, but was still in awe of John and I could not bring myself to tell him what an inspiration he had been for me.

Another decade went by before I met John again.  It was last summer at a special gathering to send off our team to London.  I did tell him then what an inspiration he had been to me, and how I still watched him in Paddles Up and I still got goose bumps.  I heard him speak of his race that day, and was again inspired.  He was still passionate about the sport, seemed to really enjoy sharing that passion with today’s crop of elite canoers.  I took a souvenir that day that I will always cherish


John Wood, Larry Cain, Steve Giles

I wish that I had known John better.  I am sure that he was a special man.  I am also sure that there was much more to him than an Olympic silver medal.  But to me he will always be the legend, and in the sport of canoeing he will be missed.


Olympic Program Held Hostage

Recently we were informed that the ICF has decided to make no changes to the Olympic Program for 2016. The more I think about it, the more I see this as a good decision. In fact, it should not even be possible for the ICF to make changes to the ICF program less than four years from an Olympics. Recall how upsetting it was to have the 500m events (and ¼ of the canoe events) yanked out from under us in 2009 just three years prior to the 2012 games. It was unfair and inappropriate and, regardless of the fact that I strongly believe women’s canoe events should be in the Olympics, it should not be done four years out from the next Olympics.

Now, I also find it upsetting that the ICF continues to pretend to be committed to gender equity and to the sport of single blade canoeing while missing out on almost every opportunity to make concrete changes to our sport. The opportunity missed this year was to commit to a change for 2020, and to introduce some real options that can be considered over the next two years and put to a real vote in 2014.

It will surprise some of you to know that the current process to make changes to the Olympic Program does not involve a direct vote of member countries. From what I can tell, the suggestions are made by the Sprint Racing committee (only one of whom is elected by the congress) and is generally accepted by the ICF board, who passes it on to the IOC. At no point is input required to be sought from member countries and at no point do the member countries get to vote on the proposed changes.

Even more frightening is the complete lack of mention of any of this process in the ICF statutes. The ICF has recognized this omission but seems in no hurry to clarify the process; I can only assume this is because they wish to keep the power to make arbitrary changes that they feel are best at any point in the Olympic lead up. If we don’t rectify this situation, we could see major changes to the program at the whim of the Sprint Racing Chair or the ICF President. It is not right to give that kind of power to such a small number of individuals.

Some have suggested that the ICF Board be given the right to vote on the changes. The problem with this is that only two members of the board are voted into office to specifically represent the Olympic disciplines (one for sprint and one for slalom). Also, there are many considerations that national federations make when voting for the board members. For example a candidates stance on developing membership base may be more important than the fact that they are a canoeing purist and would like to see all distances revert back to 10,000m for the Olympics.

Another suggestion is to allow the congress to vote. All 93 national federations. Of course only a fraction of these are highly involved in the Olympic events and the fear is that a vote from the congress could eliminate Sprint and Slalom and replace them with Dragon Boat and Ocean Racing, or that you could never get enough nations to agree to make any changes at all.

Don’t worry, I have the solution and have even written the appropriate statute to save the ICF the trouble (your welcome).

Article 50. Changes to the Olympic Racing Program and Schedule

  1. The Olympic Program is defined as the events to be included in the Olympic Games. The Olympic Schedule is defined as the specific time of each event at the Olympic Games.
  2. Changes to the Olympic program can only be made during an ICF congress and cannot be applied to the next Olympic Games (i.e. changes must be made at least six years in advance).
  3. All decisions related to changes to the Olympic Sprint Program shall be made by the Olympic Sprint Committee. All decisions related to changes to the Olympic Slalom Program shall be made by the Olympic Slalom Committee.
  4. The Olympic Sprint and Olympic Slalom Committees shall be made up of all national federations that have placed at least one boat in the top 18 (B-Final) of any World Championship event in the past eight years. The committees’ only function will be to vote on changes to the Olympic Program, there is no need for a chair or for regular meetings outside of the ICF Congress.
  5. Proposed changes can be brought forward by any member of the ICF general congress. The ‘No- Change’ proposal will be automatically included. All proposals must fit within existing medal and athlete quota limits as imposed by the IOC.
  6. Each member of the Olympic Discipline Committees will vote for their preferred option. The first round of voting shall put forward all proposals. If a super-majority is not achieved in the first vote then the two proposals with the most votes, together with the ‘No Change’ option will move forward to another round of voting. If a super majority is not achieved in round two then the proposal with the most votes will move forward to the next round together with the ‘No Change’ option. If a super-majority is not achieved in the third round of voting then no change will be approved to the Olympic Program.
  7. Changes approved by the Olympic Discipline Committees will automatically be put forward to the IOC by the ICF Board.
  8. Two years before the Olympic Games the ICF Board must present the Olympic Schedule to the Olympic Discipline Committees for approval. Changes that involve a time shift of 15 minutes or less will be automatically approved. All other schedule changes must be approved by a simple majority vote (50% +1) of the Olympic Discipline Committee. No changes can be made to the Olympic schedule less than two years before the Olympic Games.

My basic philosophy is that changing the Olympic Program should be difficult, should require near- consensus of all of the affected parties (and only the affected parties), and should be open and transparent so that when we want change we know exactly where the different national federations stand.

Comments are open and working so please add your own thoughts.

My Rant on Time Standards

I was recently asked for my opinion on implementing time standards as part of selection for National team programs.  Those of you who know me can likely guess my response; I think they are almost useless.  “But,” the argument typically goes, “we need to have some form of objective criteria to help determine who is worthy of being on the team (i.e. worthy of being funded)  and no one has ever come up with a better alternative”.  I hate to be that guy who does nothing but complain while not offering a workable alternative, so here’s my shot at an alternative to time standards.

First, I feel like I should articulate the reasons that I think time standards are so useless.  The idea of the time standard is that we choose a time that, if achieved by a Canadian athlete, gives us a reasoable expectation that the athlete is capable of a certain minumum performance.  So we take some historical data, crunch the numbers and spit out a time that must be achieved.  Assuming that the source data is reliable and that our Canadian athletes get to test themselves against this data under neutral conditions then the time standard holds up as a reasonable measure.  Let’s look at those assumptions.

How do we know if the source data is reliable? 

Because we all know that wind plays such a huge factor in times (it is no stretch to think C1 times can be off 10-20% over a 1000m race) we need to include as large a sample size as possible to come up with a time for ‘an average day’.  However, when you include World Cups in the mix you run the risk of including races where none of the World’s best are competing, or including events where the best are not pushed to their best times.  Either of those case would skew the results if included.

If we include only World and Olympic Championships where we know that all of the best are present and racing for their lives, we reduce our sample size to probably 4 or 5 events.  Any more than that and you risk using times that are no longer as fast as they need to be due to the gradual improvement that occurs over time.  The small sample size means the results can be skewed by weather conditions or other anomalies (think David Cal going 3:45 in Athens 2004).

Can we normalize the source data?

Theoretically we could take into account the effect of weather.  Given enough data it becomes an exercise in statistics.  If you went back over many years of data you could match certain weather events to changes in expected times – though of course you would need some way to determine the ‘expected time’.   You would also need accurate weather data.  How many regattas do you suppose would have collected weather data that would stand up to scientific scrutiny?  If my involvement in Canoe ’09 is any example I would wager the number is vanishingly small (we did collect wind and temperature information, but I will not guarantee that it is accurate, or that it was actually taken during each and every race).

We also could theoreticaly calculate the effect of wind on the athlete based on physics.  It is fairly trivial to account for an average athlete offering an average surface area facing a wind coming from a certain angle.  But this misses some very important elements.

First, waves become a big factor at some point.  In a strong tailwind the wind eventually stops assisting you because the waves are hindering your progress.  In a strong head wind you have to overcome the force of the wind and the waves crashing over your boat.  So wind can be compounded by waves.

Second, cross winds do not actually cause sideways motion but cause the athlete to apply additional energy just to keep the boat running straight.  Not only that, but canoe athletes are affected in completeley different ways depending on whether they paddle on the windward or leeward side.

Third, there are other factors that have a compounding affect as well.  Rain cold weather, course depth and water temperature would all need to be accounted for.

Based on all of this I say that normalizing times based on theoretical calculations is too complex.  Even if we were able to come up with a formula to do this, we would need more reliable ways to take wind measurements over the length and width of the course since conditions can change dramtically from start to finish and from lane 1 to lane 9.

OK, but anyone with knowledge of canoeing could come up with a good guess at the winning time at the World’s this year.

Sure, I can tell you that in good conditions the winning time in 1000m C1 will almost certainly be between 3:48 and 3:52.  We could use that as our time standard, even take off a percentage to give us some reasonable expectation of the 10th best time in perfect conditions. Then, if we get those great conditions at Trials we have a comparison to make.

If we don’t get those conditions we have three choices.  Apply the standard absolutely.  That is, regardless of the wind, if you do not achieve the standard you face the consequences.  This is dangerous as it is completely possible that even our best athletes miss the standard on a bad day in Montreal.

Have a threshold at which you throw out the standard altogether (e.g. if the wind exceeds Xkm/h the time standard will not be applied).

Attempt to normalize times to the standard.  Well, I’ve gone over that above but let me throw in this scenario.  Pretend that we do have the ability to normalize times for wind, we have a left’s wind, a left winner and a right who was second by half of a boat.  The normalized times changes the order of finish…now what?

So that is my longwinded summary of why I don’t like time standards, and why I don’t think they should have much weight.

None of that is news, it has all been said a thousand times by thousand voices.  The problem is that we all accept that an objective measure is necessary and don’t offer an alternative.  I predict that my alternative will not be very well received either, and will not make it into any actual selection criteria in the near term.  That’s because my criteria in NOT objective, but rather almost wholly subjective.

Are you kidding me?

Now hold on, don’t get your knickers in a knot.  I still believe that in the end if we are choosing the best Canadian crew for the World Championships or Olympic Games, that the crew comes from direct racing results.  However, I see some different classes of selection.

Realistic medal chances are known at least a year in advance.  For example, we know that our K1 1000m entry is going to be in a position to fight for a medal in London.  So, we base selection on some kind of racing series where the winner goes to the Olympics and the loser stays home.  We have no objective as a Nation other than making sure that the fastest person gets to go to the Olympics.  No need for any type of Time Standard.

Outside chances at medals are also usually known in advance.  These are events where we have a reasonable expectation of making a final and if all goes extremely well over the course of the summer we could even fight for a medal.  We should treat these the same way we treat Realistic medal chances; a series of races in which the best overall result gets the entry.  And again, no need for a time standard.  The only issue is determining whether we have an outside chance at a medal or not.  If our National Team coaches can’t make that determination based on the last couple years of races, we are paying the wrong guys.

Senior World’s bubble chances are events in which we did not make a final at the previous World Championship and realistically would need a superior performance to have a chance at the final in the coming year.  This is where we must face the reality of the current funding model – perform or perish.  We need to target the limited dollars at the best medal hopefuls and so, we need a way to determine which of the several ‘bubble’ entries deserves enough funding to attend the next competition.  But we are not choosing events that we think we actually have a shot at this year.  If these events are chosen  at all it is because we believe there is a medal chance down the road.  So, I would lump our bubble events in with…

…Development Opportunities.  This can be a Junior World event, a Pan Am event, a U23 event a Sr. World Event that doesn’t have a hope for a medal this year, or a slew of athletes that should get National Team funding but aren’t yet good enough to get an entry at the Senior World level.  The reason that I lump all of these together is that they all have the same objective – to provide opportunities for future potential Olympic medalists to compete at a high level and, by learning from that experience, move closer to being an Olympic medal threat.  Note that this means that our objective at Jr. Worlds IS NOT to field the best possible slate of entries, but to field the entries that are most likely to develop into Olympians in 6-8 years.  This is where a reliable time standard would make everything fairly easy.  If you could set a normalized time for the very best in the world, it is easy enough to scale that time back to suit a U23 athlete, a junior athlete or an athlete hoping to make a B final at the Sr Worlds.  You then look at all the different events and take the athletes who are closest to where you think they should be relative to the time standard.   But as I have tried to show above, time standards are useless pieces of fiction.  So, I think that the national team coaches should get to decide.

GAAAH!  The Lawsuits!!!

I know the objections.  The coaches are biased, they can’t be trusted to make the right choices, they can’t possibly recognize Canada’s future elite athletes.  I call bullshit on all of that.  Our National Team coaches have been professional coaches for a long time.  We should be hiring them precisely because they have the skill to recognize great athletes and turn them into great canoe athletes.  I also recognize the need for something to base decisions on.  Here are my selection criteria.  These can be weighted as you wish, but the basics are:

  • Is this athlete competitive against Canadian athletes who are older and more experienced (i.e. a Midget who is winning at Junior)?
  • Does this athlete’s technique conform to the “Technique Block” we are trying to encourage (more on that some other day), or is their success based mostly on physical development?
  • Has this athlete shown the ability to adjust their technique based on coaching, that is, are they coachable?
  • Does this athlete consistently train at a high physical level?
  • Has this athlete achieved a time standard?
  • Is this athlete currently the best in their event?

Athletes that score highest in these categories are the ones we want to mold into future Olympians.

This would obviously require the National Team coaches to spend a lot of time with potential members of our National Team.  There are components here that require evaluation throughout the year, not just on the day of the trials.  It would be a lot more work for the coaches.  This would also require a tremendous amount of trust between the National Coach, personal coaches and athletes.

I am curious to hear what others have to say on this matter.  Please comment if you have an opinion.   I review all the comments before they appear, so I apologize if you see some delay.

Another New High Performace Director?

Received a copy of this today.   All I can say is … wow!

From: “Lorraine Lafreniere” <>
Date: Wed, 15 Feb 2012 19:15:45

Subject: Barney Wainwright

CanoeKayak Canada has decided to end Barney Wainwright’s employment as High
Performance Director. Through joint discussions, we were unable to agree an
alternative role for Barney to contribute to the team, and as a consequence
he will be leaving within the next two months. We wish Barney success and
thank him for his contribution to the National Team.

We are working closely with our national team coaches, the High Performance
Committee and Own the Podium to ensure a smooth transition and we have every
confidence that we will manage our programs and services with our current
staff until a new High Performance Director is found.  The process to hire a
new High Performance Director will be launched next month.  The timelines
for a new hire will be carefully considered, given the proximity to the
Olympic Games.

Peter Niedre, our coach and education development director will take on the
program management of our development and junior programs.    Christine Bain
will continue to work on the management and coordination of all national
team activities.  We will bring in support to offset some of the work load.
Own the Podium advisor, Sean Scott, will be working more closely with me to
support the needs of the national  team leading up to the Olympics.  We are
also working on the creation of our 2016 Plan and a framework to support the
integration of a new High Performance Director/Head Coach.  We have the full
support of Own the Podium in our approach.  We are meeting with the NT
coaches to ensure we do everything needed for London 2012 and beyond.

We have received a budget cut from Own the Podium and therefore some of our
junior/development programs will be self-funded or partially self-funded.
We have been privileged in the past few years to be able to offset the costs
of competition and training.  But know that we will continue to build
quality development programs leading up to 2013 Jr /U23 Sprint Worlds in

Our target programs for London 2012 are protected.   Our development
programs will continue and that we will work to build on our potential to

Four Lessons on Racing

When I was 12 years old I raced in my very first National Championships.  I was 7th on the left in the back of Orenda’s Juvenile Men’s War Canoe.  The boat was filled with 16, 17 and 18year old boys – I was really little more than filler.  We were a decent crew and our coach had convinced us that even though none of us had ever dreamed of being in an actual National Championship race we had the ability to win.

I remember the race well considering it was 27 years ago.  We were out in front of all the crews near us and I felt like we were winning.  In fact, I felt so much like we were winning I spent quite a bit of time thinking about how we were winning and looking around to try and see by how much.  Unfortunately, when we crossed the line we were second by just a few inches to the Mississauga crew that was on the far side of the course.  I felt awful.  My crew mates were pretty happy to get the silver in their first ever race, and they tried to console the 12 year old boy who was crying on the dock.  What they didn’t know, and what I couldn’t tell them was that I hadn’t given everything that I had.  Yes, I was only 12 years old and may have been half the size of some of those other boys, but I knew in my heart that if I had just not looked around so much I could have made the difference and gotten us the gold.

Lesson 1 – Leave everything on the race course every time

A few years later I was racing in my first Midget C-1 race at Nationals.  I was still young and was not expecting to win.  I did expect to surprise some people and wanted to give absolutely everything I had.  The race was in Toronto on Center Island.  The course was not great, buoys only every 100m and hard to see your lane.  When I started my heat I wanted to go as hard as I could and leave everything on the race course.  So I put my head down and went for it.  By the time I looked up I had gotten a little off course and couldn’t make out which buoys were mine, or which direction the lanes went.  I went rigght when I should have gone left.  The next thing I heard was, “NUMBER 6 STOP PADDLING!” Disqualified in my heat.  I felt like an idiot.  I knew how to steer and hadn’t gone out of my lane in years.

Lesson 2 – Doing your best means using your head as well as your body

After a few years of good racing I battled my way onto many podiums.  I had a great year in 1990, battling all summer against my hero Larry Cain and winning the entry for the 1000m C-1 at the World Championship.   The following year Larry came back full force like a true Champion and again we battled back and forth all summer.  After two European races and two sets of trials we were deadlocked.  It was determined that the World Championship entry would be decided in a one-shot race off at Nationals in Ottawa.  I thought about the race for weeks.  It consumed every waking moment.  I knew that I had to beat Larry.  That was all that mattered.  If I lost I would not go to the Worlds and I would be forced to watch him race in my place.  When the day of the race came I was focused on beating Larry.  I started OK, but he started great.  When it became obvious that I couldn’t catch him, I lost all motivation and fell to 4th place.  I was devastated.  The biggest race in my life, so many people there to watch and I had failed miserably.

The race off had taken place on the Friday of Nationals.  I still had a meaningless 500m race the next day, which I was not looking forward to.  The 10000m was my specialty and I did not believe that I could win the 500.  I sulked in my room most of the night, alone.  I considered quitting altogether.  At some point during the night though I made up my mind that I was going to go out the next day and have fun.  I would focus on myself and try and just race my own best race.  I changed my race plan so that I could try something new – race as hard as I could to the 250 and then race as hard as I could to the finish.  No break, no gliding, just racing like a mad man.  Lo and behold, when I finished the race I had won.  And I had one of the funnest races of my life.

 Lesson 3 – Focus on yourself, have fun and don’t worry about the result

Finally I would direct your attention to the day I almost won the Black Trophy.  Bob Kay and his crew went hard to the finish and it paid off.

Lesson 4 – Go hard to the finish.  This is canoeing and anything can happen.

Good luck to all Canadian canoe/kayak athletes!  This week will see the World Championships,  Atlantic Pee-wee/Bantam Championships and most important for me – Atom Champs on Lake Echo.  Next week is Nationals – GO SENOBE GO!