Outriggers tune up for champs
OUTRIGGERS: For outrigging coach Grant Olds, selection of an Australian under-19 team to compete at the World Sprint Championships is just a part of the job.
At the weekend, Olds visited Rockhampton to work with three of the young outriggers who are pushing hard for selection when the final squad is named towards the end of February.
Olds said having a team of athletes from areas stretching from Wollongong to Cairns presents its own set of problems, especially as the young outriggers have been guided by different coaches to reach the level they have achieved.
“We spent time working on techniques,” Olds said of his time working with paddlers on the Fitzroy River.
“I was introducing them to short, intensive training that is specific to outrigging.”
While technique can be a personal preference in a singles event, it is a different matter when those competitors then become the crew of a six-man canoe.
In the few months available until the World Sprint Championships at New Caledonia during May, it is the job of Olds to identify the strengths of team members and harness them to produce the best possible result.
“That is the challenge,” he said.
This is the second time Olds, who is based at Gladstone, has taken charge of the national under-19 team.
At the last World Sprint Championship at Sacramento, California, in 2008 he guided the Australian team to the finals.
He knows this year will prove to be even tougher.
Firstly the Australian team will probably comprise of paddlers at the lower end of the 16-to-19 year group.
Also the crews will have to contend with a different buoyancy as sprint events are usually raced in the fresh water of an inland lake but this year it will be in salt water of a coastal lake.
Realistically it will be a tough ask for the Australians as they face the Tahitians, the world’s best in the sport, and New Zealand, the traditional second best at the sprint event.
Competing in the 500 and 1000 metre sprints, Olds said the Australians have a lot of work to do to catch the best crews around.
“We have 20 seconds we’ve got to find,” he said.
That equates to about five boat lengths.
He said the task is made tougher as the sprint events are not an area where Australia concentrates its efforts.
“In this country we tend to favour the marathons,” he said.
At Rockhampton, Olds worked with Lachlan Hite and Connor Groves, who are both aiming for places in the national under-19 team, Marc Emmert a candidate for the under-16 team and Jacob Kelly a local paddler who has shown potential.
“There is a lot of improvement to be made but I saw a lot of good signs from the boys from Rocky,” Olds concluded.
Australia will compete at the New Zealand national championships before the final squad for the World Sprint Championship is named.
Keeping the fitness of local competitors at a high level is Pat Boucher, of the Rockhampton Junior Outriggers Canoe Club, and he is confident the three Rockhampton paddlers will feature in the final make-up of the Australian team.
“I am still confident but we now have to build on their training,” he said.
While the young paddlers concentrate on their training, Boucher has his work cut out co-ordinating fundraising required for the trip.
“We are still in the process of raising money,” he confirmed.