Brian Malfesi and his partner Vincent Jourdenais have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. (Special to The News)

Brian Malfesi and his partner Vincent Jourdenais have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. (Special to The News)

Maple Ridge kayak racer qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

Malfesi is first B.C. sprint paddler to race for Team Canada at Olympics in 33 years

A Maple Ridge athlete is on his way to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Kayaker Brian Malfesi is the first sprint paddling athlete from B.C. to qualify for the Olympics in the past 33 years, after he qualified in the doubles kayak 1000m event.

“Officially nominated to the Canadian Olympic Team for Tokyo. We did it,” he posted on his Instagram account on Friday.

“Together with my Quebec brother and the guy who pushes me every day, Vincent ‘Jordy’ Jourdenais. Thank you Jordy for trusting me when I said this was possible 2.5 years ago, believing in me even when I don’t believe in myself, helping me rediscover my love for the sport, and working hard while having fun. It’s been a crazy ride in the K2. The best is yet to come, so let’s show the world what we got.”

Malfesi is also the first member of the Ridge Canoe and Kayak Club to make it to the Olympics. He attended Whonnock elementary, and was just a walk to the club’s headquarters at Whonnock Lake. He started paddling 16 years ago, at the age of 11. Malfesi came from a soccer family – his father Mike played for the SFU Clan – but he fell in love with kayak racing.

He’s even engaged to Tessa Nagai – the head coach at the Ridge Canoe and Kayak Club in Maple Ridge.

“Tessa Nagai, the woman of my dreams, my favourite person, and biggest role model, thank you for letting me follow this crazy dream and being my everything. This is not possible without you,” he said to her, in announcing his huge news.

Malfesi, 27, is a nine-time national champion, and has been on the Canadian National Team for seven years. His first international experience came in 2010, when he was selected to represent Canada in Mexico City for the Pan American Championships. He also competed at the 2011 Junior World Championships in Germany. Since then, he represented Canada at U23 and Senior World Championships.

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This was a challenging year for paddlers. Normally, Canadians train in Florida during the winter, but COVID-19 put a stop to that. So Canadians were training at Shawnigan Lake.

“Being the only one from B.C., I was really excited about that,” he said.

Malfesi and Jourdenais have also had no international competition for a year, so it’s tough to rank the teams.

They finished 14th at the world championships in 2019, but that was their first year together. They have gotten a lot faster, but so has everyone, said Malfesi. They have posted a time of three minutes and 12 seconds.

“Back in the day, 3:12 would win you medal, but now you’ve got to go 3:08 or 3:07,” he said. “But it’s wide open. Nobody has really raced in a year.”

They will be training right up until they leave for Tokyo, and they will be at their peak for the Games.

READ ALSO: $1 million upgrade for paddling club going ahead

Malfesi said he will be coming home for a week, then leave for Trois-Rivieres to train with Team Canada, up until they leave for Japan.

The games will be held in Tokyo from July 23 until Aug. 8.

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