A Passion for Sport and Fellowship
by Leo Llonch
With an average of only three years experience per athlete in the sport of Flat Water Sprint Kayaking, they were impressive and competitive at the World Games venue with numerous former Olympians and athletes with decades of more experience than theirs. In Europe, Kayaking is second to Soccer in popularity, yet most begin their training at age 10 - 12 years old.
Their fellowship and collegial demeanor was a magnet that attracted the Czech, Hungarian, German, Canadian, and Polish athletes to congregate with them. This group has a selfless attitude and yearning for fun and pranks off the water, yet on the water internal drive and fortitude transforms them into World Masters Champions. Over time and through a natural passage of personal trials, they are a solid bond of friends and teammates. There is a sense of interdependency and mutual support that is much like a centuries old Persian Rug which has endured the test of time and weather through the integrated fibers which give strength and integrity to the whole as well as the complementary design and diversity of color.
Someone said that it is culture and not politics nor economics that binds a people and generates their history. The sport of Flat Water Sprint Kayaking, with its origins and prevalence in Europe, is a small culture-oriented sport of family, friends, and with a natural sense for cooperation. Friendships are borne, cultivated, and nurtured over years of meeting, competing, and celebrating. Unlike some other larger, global sports, it is a much smaller community of recreational and competitive paddlers. Off the water, they exchange technical concepts, racing strategies, and they share each others racing boats and equipment with their competition. During these World games, several athletes from Australia, Canada, and Germany did not have racing boats to compete with. Especially for the Australians, transporting their boats around the world is cost-prohibitive. We loaned them our own boats, knowing very well that they would be our competition in the racing heats.
As a group, the USA Masters Athletes from the southeast are as diverse as the culture and color of their sport. Among them are educators, an attorney, a Hospice Care supervisor, and a Real Estate Consultant. They originally hail from Georgia, Maryland, New York, Florida, and New England. Their coaches over the years have been from Poland, Germany, Australia, and Cuba. Although they are a young, inexperienced group of athletes relative to the average competitor at the World games, the one attribute that binds them is a passion for their sport and the willingness to give more than is required.