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B.C. slalom kayaker eyed as Olympic-potential by talent program

Nathan Christensen kayaker earns funding at RBC Training Ground finals
Chilliwack’s Nathan Christensen racing at the 2021 Canoe Kayak Canada Slalom Team Trials held at “The Pumphouse” Whitewater Course in Ottawa. (Sean Burges/Mundo Sport Images)

A Chilliwack slalom kayaker has emerged from a pool of about 2,200 Canadian athletes as one of the most promising.

Chilliwack’s Nathan Christensen, 19, has been awarded funding and an accelerated path to the Olympics after impressing scouts at the RBC Training Ground national final in December. Christensen paddles on the Tamihi Rapids, as a member of the Chilliwack Centre of Excellence.

He was one of the 100 athletes (ages 14 to 25) to make it through to the RBG Training Ground finals, as part of the annual cross-country talent search run in partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Sport Institutes.

And from those top 100 athletes, an elite list of 30 were selected for the funding and ‘RBC Future Olympian’ status.

“Nathan placed second overall in the inter-class ranking at the 2023 National Championships, and relocated to our National Team training squad in France for the 2023 winter/spring season,” said Emily MacKeigan, senior manager, high performance operations, Canoe Kayak Canada. “He was the most improved racer from the 2022 selections and 2023 selections, so we were really happy to see Nathan’s abilities also show up in the RBC Training Ground testing, because the funding will be very meaningful for him.”

The program see athletes from a wide range of sports perform core speed, strength, power and endurance tests in front of Olympic talent scouts from nine different sports to find the sport for which they are most suited. The complete list of 30 athletes selected for funding is available at There is only one other B.C. athlete on the list, Nicolai Martinez Arroyo Asebey from Victoria.

Chilliwack’s Nathan Christensen competing at the 2023 RBC Training Ground National Final in Toronto, Dec. 2, 2023. (Kate Dockeray photo)

“Some of the athletes who participate in RBC Training Ground are looking to re-energize or boost an Olympic dream in a sport they are already participating in,” said Evan MacInnis, technical director for RBC Training Ground. “Others participate with the hope of being discovered and directed toward an Olympic sport they may have never considered. But they all rely on raw athleticism to impress our sport partners and compete for funding.”

Funding is administered by the participating National Sport Organization bringing the athlete into its system, and is used for things like coaching, transportation, travel, equipment, and nutrition. NSO partners include Boxing Canada; Canoe Kayak Canada; Climbing Escalade Canada; Cycling Canada Cyclisme; Freestyle Canada, Luge Canada; Rowing Canada Aviron, Rugby Canada; Speed Skating Canada; Triathlon Canada; Volleyball Canada, Boxing Canada; Climbing Canada; Triathlon Canada; and Wrestling Canada.

This is the eighth year for the program, and so far they have tested 14,000 athletes at free local events across the country. There have already been 13 finalists who have competed at Olympic Games, earning a collective seven medals.

While some finalists may have never competed in their chosen sport, Christensen has been paddling for years. Last year, Christensen represented Canada in the International Canoe Federation’s Canoe Slalom Junior/U23 World Championships, in Ivrea, Italy.

The teenager earned his way to Italy with a strong performance at the 2022 COPAC Pan American Games in Oklahoma City. Christensen trained in France for two months leading up to the event and timed well enough to qualify for Canada’s national junior team.

He was previously named ‘Slalom Athlete of the Year’ by Canoe Kayak BC.

-with Chilliwack Progress files

READ MORE: Chilliwack paddler selected for Canadian U23 national team

Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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