The Australian Team was bolstered by the selection of 16 canoe/kayak sprint athletes for the Australian Youth Olympic Festival (AYOF) to be held in Sydney from January 16-20.
The announcement comes as London 2012 K4 gold medallist David Smith declared a new era in canoeing is upon us.
“We believe canoeing is the next biggest thing in sport,” said Smith at a paddling clinic in Manly.
“We want to change the middle-age market. Instead of going and buying a $5000-$10000 road bike… go get a kayak or ocean ski and enjoy the water.”
The ripple effect of Smith and the K4 men taking gold in London can be seen in the new crop of paddlers named for the AYOF.
“Seeing Australia be so successful over the past few Olympics is always inspiring,” 18-year-old Queenslander Bill Bain said after his selection.
“From Ken Wallace winning gold in Beijing to the K4 boys in London and even Ken getting fourth place in London is great to see. I also look up to Clint Robinson who is a local boy from the Sunshine Coast like me.”
Bain is one of the frontrunners for AYOF stardom, having topped the male rankings at the AYOF selection event- the Australian Canoeing GP1, over the weekend.
West Australian Shannon Reynolds topped the female rankings after athletes were challenged in both crew and individual events. Their performances from their best three out of four events contributed to an overall point-score and determined the eight male and eight female Australian representatives.
“It was pretty tough and there is such great depth in Australian junior kayaking at the moment,” Bain said.
The talented teenager had a breakthrough year in 2011, winning the non-Olympic K1 Junior World Marathon Championship (in a borrowed boat). He also finished fifth in the K1 1000m at the Junior World Championships.
National Performance Director Richard Fox is thrilled to introduce Australia’s next generation of stars to the world stage ahead of a big year for juniors. Trials for the coveted U23 World Championship Team will take place just a month after the AYOF.
"After a break of four years, it is good to see the AYOF event back on the map,” Fox said.
“It will be a great experience for our team of athletes to race competitors from China, Brazil, Japan, Hungary and New Zealand at the start of a big year with junior and Under 23 World Championships to follow in July."
For Bain, who will work closely with coaching staff to perfect his preparation for the events, “every year is bigger than the last. We are stepping up every year.”
National Elite Development Manager and AYOF Chairman of Selectors, Dave Foureur, was impressed with the calibre of athletes chosen to represent Australia in Penrith in 2013.
"There were some very good performances over the weekend and some close finishes as athletes stepped up to the mark for selection and there is no doubt we have selected a strong team."