My mother loves hats. She owns an assortment of “paddling” baseball caps, from tech material to neoprene, to regular old ball caps. She inherited my dad’s collection, too.
But I’m willing to bet her most coveted hat is one she picked up this week: a hat trick of gold medals at the 2012 Va’a Outrigger World Sprint championships in Calgary.
Canada 1 outdistanced three other competitors to capture gold in the Masters 70s women’s 1,000- metre (3,280 feet) sprints Tuesday afternoon at Glenmore Reservoir.
“These are the most fun races of all,” coach Pat Pawlette told the over-70s as they warmed up. All 12 paddlers, representing both of Canada’s teams, stretched, ran and visualized winning before heading separately down to the waiting area.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for,” Pat said. “We’ve been practicing for this for months…Everybody’s done this a million times. Just go for it.”
Canada 1 assembled under a shady tree near the Calgary Canoe Club building, hydrating (a paddling term for drinking some water) and staying out of the sun before they were called to the paddlers’ check-in.
Today, the race course was backwards: teams started from where the finish line had been yesterday. Flags were brought in to the 250-metre (820-foot) mark so teams could cut around them. Boats were permitted to knock into the flag stand, but if the flag itself hit the water, that team would be disqualified.
The distance meant teams had to make three turns. The sun was glaring off the reservoir’s surface, making it difficult to clearly see the whole course from the sidelines.
The teams lined up with Canada 2 in one lane, Hawaii in the next, Canada 1 in Lane 3 and Hawaii in Lane 2, closest to shore. Canada 1 is strong in this event, and Pat is an accomplished steersperson. Canada 1 lagged back slightly when they made their first turn. They made up the distance and inched into the lead until their second turn. They were still neck and neck going into the third and final turn, but Canada 1 turned on the jets and powered through the remaining quarter of a race to cross the finish buoys first.
Canada 1 finished the race with a time of 6:38.24. Keauhou 2 came in second with a time of 6:43.79. Keauhou finished third for the bronze medal with a time of 7:19.25, and Canada 2 finished fourth in 7:30.80.
This third race didn’t have the same desperate intensity as the second gold medal event for the Masters 70s women, and maybe Pat’s advice rubbed in. Canada 1 looked like they knew what they were doing because they did: they practiced and practiced to get it right. They had some fun while they were at it.
The medal ceremony was to take place following the last race. I’ve never seen so many shivering champions; an extreme cold front had moved in, dumping rain and a thunderstorm on the site and postponing the final four races.
The lunch tent was packed with athletes and spectators, some garbed in winter toques and fleece jackets from the souvenir store, as volunteers scrambled to turn power back on in the area, sort the medals and flags and get ready.
Mom and her team ascended the gold medal winners’ podium twice today; once for yesterday’s 500m sprint victory, and another for the 1000 m sprints.
Tomorrow, racing wraps up with a closing ceremony. Then it’s onto a plane, heading home to Vancouver, with one thought in mind: Brazil’s world championships are only two years away.