2013 Australian Open
Slalom racing is set to explode in 2014 when the worlds best junior and U23 whitewater canoeists converge in Penrith for the ICF U23 and Junior World Championships.
This weekend’s Australian Open provides those who are aspiring to be there with a taste of what competition might be like in 14 months time and provides the fuel and determination to get there.
But first stands the challenge of making this year’s U23 and Junior teams and that is exactly what the focus has been for a host of promising youngsters lead by Tasmanian junior Daniel Watkins and 22 year old Victorian Jaxon Merritt.
They lead a group that also includes Andrew Eckhardt (TAS), Kate Eckhardt (TAS), Steven Lowther (WA), Brodie Crawford (WA), Timothy Anderson (VIC), Maggie Webster (VIC), Noemie Fox (NSW), Alison Borrows (NSW) and Joey Croft (NSW) all vying for selection this weekend.
Watkins has started the year in a blaze of glory winning two Gold medals at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival, and carried that form through to the Australian Open with victory in the men’s C1 junior event today.
In wet conditions, Watkins navigated his way through the 18 gate free flowing course effortlessly posting a clean fast time of 110.96, placing him 17th overall.
“I had a couple of mistakes but I managed to keep the speed on the boat in most places which was alright, I was little low in places but it was clean also and it worked out not too bad,” said Watkins.
The C1 victory was a bonus for Watkins, who will line up in his preferred discipline, the men’s K1 in tomorrow’s semifinal and is confident of another strong performance.
“I felt the race in C1 so I am pretty confident with it so I should be able to go as hard as I can and leave a bit of room for mistakes and try to be consistent and clean.”
Watkins is excited by the chance to race on the familiar course in Penrith at next year’s Junior Worlds in April, but first he has his eye on improving on his 2012 eighth place K1 finish at Junior Worlds last year.
“I want to make the junior team to go to Slovakia this year to compete at worlds and once I am there I want to make the finals in the K1,” he said.
The action will continue tomorrow with the mens K1, mens C2 and womens C1 where the final places in the U23 and Junior teams will be decided.