Australian U23 Kayak Team Italy

By Jim on Thursday, June 17, 2010

After years and years of training, dreaming and pushing themselves to the limit, the greatest honour has arrived for our emerging athletes, the members of the Australian kayak Team.

Many have come from other sporting backgrounds before making the switch to kayaking. Mitch Thompson was a swimmer as were Glen Wilkinson and Mitch Crow, whilst Dean Blanche and Michael Knauer are straight from kayaking. Daniel Bowker took up the sport after paddling surf skis for only 12mths having found the 'bug' for paddling. Nick Dawe and Zolt Dallos found their way to kayaking through a talent ID program.  For Aolt it was inevitable (being born in Hungary).

All these journies have led to them wearing the GREEN and Gold (Australia's sporting colours), it is an honour to share this time away with them.

Over the next three weeks I’ll take you on a journey into to this National team's training, thinking, eating habits.

Their time has come:

The flight from Australia to our Hotel base in Versace Italy can only be described as torture. Arriving at the airport in Australia to putting the bags down in the room at Versace was a painful 30 hours.  After arriving, settling in and adjusting to the 8 hour time delay it was time to go for a paddle. It is important to stay fresh with paddling, if you leave it for to long you lose your feel for the water.

On the water the boys did a 30-minute paddle at about 65%- 70%, getting a feel for the water again. Just enough pressure on the blade to help you get your muscle memory back but not too hard to hurt yourself. These boys were sitting in a cramp position for 30hrs so now was not the time to push the body too hard. 

The morning session was a great surprise. The background of this beautiful lake were snow-capped mountains (not common in Australia). The glassy conditions provided conditions as good as any where in the world.  Time to dig deeper and produce a hard session.

Most sessions in the morning are  hard sessions; this leaves the rest of the day for recovery;  early in the week the sessions are more intense then ease off as we lead into racing.

The food is protein carbohydrate meals to provide the fuel for the day’s training. Early in the week, paddling, weights and drills can be done in one day.

Most of the guys take a protein/carbohydrate drink as soon as they get off the water. This aids recovery. 30 mins quickly adds up before they arriving back for breakfast. An important tip is to consider how long between the early training session and refuelling the body.  Also in the morning or afternoon and how long till you get home before you eat.

The rule of thumb is its best to get your protein/carbs within 20 mins on a session.

Training is a funny thing to master when you are racing and travelling. That is the case on this tour. We are racing every weekend and training to prepare each week. All the guys will do team boat work and singles. Just like in the business world, you only succeed when you work well in different environments and with different teams. How you adapt to these situations is what ultimately can determine your future. Everyone likes to work with people who want success and have goals. This group is no different.

Training: The training has been hard with tough sessions lasting anywhere between 1hr and 1hr 15mins, with 10mins bike riding to and from training. Throw in some weights training and you soon realise why these guys love their rest.

Early in the week the sessions are high intensity with shorter rest, as the week goes on we add some race plan work, then finish the week with high skills based with hard efforts and long rest.  When planning your sessions over long periods you can also use the same methods, but use them in 2-3 month blocks.

When on tour the focus is obviously paddling. In Verasce we have a few options; the first being knuckling down and training extremely hard. It is great not to have distractions when you need to focus. The second option is going and seeing the sights of another country.

Considering both options we set a balanced plan between the two. We decided to go to Milan and forget about paddling just for a couple of hours, a good way to help refresh. If you think paddling 24/7 you will end up going backwards, becoming complacent and stale. The way to improve any sort of paddling is to lift your percentages, do more sessions of quality rather than just doing sessions for the sake of your diary.

The day in Milan added to team bonding and appreciating different cultures.  Breaking up training is something that we all need to do and never feel guilty for it.  A restful afternoon was had. Our racing will start in the morning.

Racing tired and sick is the biggest mistake you can make. Feeling fresh and jumping out of your skin is the way to go. If you have done the work, then one day out is not going to affect your fitness, strength or speed, so having a rest to feel good is the way to go.

Turning up to one of the most beautiful courses in the world in itself inspitres you race.

Unfortunately for Day 1 of racing we made a mistake that was a great lesson for future paddling, we didn’t respect our opposition and therefore paid the penalty. Rule number 1, have respect for anyone you race and then you are able to stick to your race plan because you are in control of your race and are not put off by others around you. Remember you can’t control what others do in a race, always stick to what you do best, Your own race plan.

On Day 2 had the team was in a different frame of mind and the results showed.

We won a gold medal, two silver and a bronze. The gold in the K4 1000m [Mitch, Mitch, Glen and Zolt] was a well earned Gold as only moments before Glen and Zolt had just picked up silver in the K2 1000m. They paddled a very controlled 1000m race, not that far behind the Italians and they see themselves improving in the coming regattas. In the same event Dean and Daniel came 3rd and also had good boat run throughout their 1000m. In the fast and furious race of the K4 500m the team of Michael, Daniel, Dean and Nick were touched out of a gold medal by the width of fly’s wing. The silver capped of a very good return to form.

The team moves onto Hungary for the next regatta which will be the hardest regatta the boys will compete in. Hungary is well known for it’s Olympic Kayaking champions and has depth in their development squads. It may not be a regatta where places and medals are counted, more a regatta of personal bests. The team is working extremely hard and they will get their just rewards.

Stay up to date will all quick messages and trip highlights at facebook/mykayakcoach fan page.

Yours in paddling.