My name is Kate Lawrence, my sport is canoe slalom.
Strangely, it is often confused with rowing by friendly and well-meaning acquaintances as they kindly enquire, ‘how is your rowing going?’ Let me explain, rowers go backwards in a straight line on flat water; slalom canoeists and kayakers go forwards down whitewater rapids while also negotiating their way through a series of ‘gates’, each comprising two poles a minimum of 1.2m apart hanging above the water. It’s a very exciting, dynamic and challenging sport, which I have been involved in since I was a kid growing up on a farm in the tiny community of Old Bonalbo in northern NSW.
When I finished high school I moved to Emu Plains so I could train at the Penrith Whitewater Stadium and pursue elite level success. That was back in 2002, and I have been here ever since – training, studying and working in various combinations. I could probably write all day about how I got into the sport, the places it has taken me, the experiences it has given me, the ups and downs, successes and failures, and the things that I have learnt over the last ten years or so. But this is supposed to be an approximately 300 word blog – and the point of it is that the countdown to the 2012 Olympic Games is on.
It is my goal to be representing Australia at the London Olympics next year, and to win a medal (preferably gold!). Women’s kayak (K1W) is the only canoe slalom class for women at the Olympics, and each country can only possibly qualify one representative to go to the Games in each of the four classes. That’s right – three classes for men, only one for women. Don’t get me started on that – there’s at least a whole essay in it. Let’s just say that’s the way it has been for a long time. We’re hoping it will change for 2016, but for now that’s the way it is… So there is only one spot up for grabs for an Australian woman on the 2012 Olympic canoe slalom team.
Olympic selection for us is in February, and there are multiple contenders for that one spot, including myself and my younger sister Ros. Four years ago I narrowly missed out on earning the spot for Beijing to my older sister Jacqui, who went on to win a silver medal. You could say that this sport is a bit of a family affair! The sibling rivalry is fierce but friendly – although Jacqui has now retired from the sport so she is officially on cheer squad duty.
Selection in February will be tight, I have no doubt about that – but these are exciting times, and I am looking forward to those races. I’m training hard and I’m enjoying continually improving and working towards my goal.
So to summarise: one spot up for grabs for a female Australian canoe slalom athlete to go to the Olympics next year. I want it.
Bring it on I say!