Paddlers vie for spots on Team Canada

Three paddlers with the Ridge Canoe and Kayak Club are vying for spots with Team Canada this weekend in Montreal.

Local sprint kayak competitor Alex Brent has made the jump up to U-23 competition this season.

Local sprint kayak competitor Alex Brent has made the jump up to U-23 competition this season.

Three paddlers with the Ridge Canoe and Kayak Club are vying for spots with Team Canada this weekend in Montreal.

Canoe Kayak Canada’s second National Team Trials take place in Montreal, and leading the B.C. contingent is Brian Malfesi (Ridge CKC) who recently won silver at the Piestany International Regatta, and is the top-ranked B.C. sprint kayaker.

Joining Malfesi are Ridge teammates Alex Brent and Matthew Koehler.

Team B.C. coach Blake Dalton said Malfesi has already had a tremendous start to the season, with a medal in Slovakia.

He won silver in the U23 men’s K1 1000m at the Piestany International Regatta. Joining him on the podium from Canada was Jarret Kenke who won bronze. The gold went to Christoph Kornfeind (Austria).

“It’s a good international regatta, and the calibre in his race was strong,” said Dalton. “Brian had a great race.”

Malfesi is a member of a team of NextGen athletes who competed at Piestany to gain international race experience to prepare them to achieve podium performances at the highest level in the long-term.

He is the top-ranked B.C. paddler, and will be aiming for a spot on the U23 national team that will compete at the world championships in Minsk, Belarus.

“I expect him to do really well,” said the coach. “He’s one of the top-ranked U23 paddlers in Canada.”

Brent, 19, got eighth in the Junior Worlds in the K2,000 event last year. That was the nation’s best result in a decade, and a “phenomenal showing,” said Dalton.

He also finished sixth at the Youth Olympics in China.

“He’s jumping up to the U23 ranks, so it will be an adjustment,” said Dalton. “But I wouldn’t be surprised to see him turn some heads.”

Brent has been training in Trois Rivieres for the past two weeks, and he says he feels stronger than ever.

He and his teammates have been paddling at Whonnock Lake about 11 sessions per week.

“We go in circles for hours,” he said with a laugh.

He said club coach Peter Majewski has them all physically fit. From 21-kilometre runs, pumping weights, swimming and lots of sprint paddling, they put their work in.

“His workouts are crazy, and he pushes us to no end.”

Majewski will join his team in Montreal.

Brent, who was the flag bearer at last year’s Western Canada Summer Games, said the training is essential in a sport where you go full out for almost four minutes.

“It’s all about how hard you can push yourself.”

Brent said working with Malfesi has helped him get better.

“He has helped me a lot. He’s always talking about technique. But this weekend he’s the competition.”

He calls himself a dark horse to make the team, but says he has high expectations for improved speed.

Koehler will be shooting for a spot on the junior worlds team that will also be going to Belarus, and Dalton said he has a god shot at making it. To do so, he will have to meet the country’s performance standards as well as being one of the top competitors.

Dalton said Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario have been the strongest teams at the national trials in the past, but Team BC will be heard from.

“We may not have the numbers, but definitely have quality athletes.”

Athletes are competing for:

• selection to the junior and U23 world championship team;

• national team carding (athlete assistance program);

• selection to U17 Canada Cup tour team;

• Selection to the Olympic Hopes Tour Team.

The competition begins this morning and will continue through the weekend.