Yukon’s paddling team isn’t winning any races. They are at the bottom of results. But they have logged a significant first at the Canada Summer Games this week.
Team Yukon’s Jason Zrum and Andrew Crist are the first two paddlers from any of Canada’s three territories to compete in flatwater racing in Canada Games history.
“It’s been good. We’re learning a lot, everyone is super friendly, which always nice – paddling has a great community,” said Zrum. “Yeah, we might be at the bottom of the standings, but we’ve only been paddling two months. We’re doing well for how long we’ve been paddling these boats.”
Zrum and Crist are competing in K-1 (solo kayak) and K-2 (tandem kayak) events this week in Sherbrooke.
Some of the loudest cheers at races have been for them – and not just from Yukoners. Spectators and officials are simply excited to have a territory represented for the first time.
“We’re delighted that they’re here,” said John Edwards, domestic development director for Canoe Kayak Canada, the sport’s national governing body. “We’ve actually had a canoe club in the Yukon join the organization and we’re looking forward to how we can strengthen the relationship.”
Yukon’s presence in the events came about in a short time frame. The word whirlwind pops to mind.
Earlier this year the Yukon Canoe and Kayak Club brokered a deal, with assistance from Team Yukon’s chef de mission Trevor Twardochleb, to acquire four older, used boats from the Manitoba Paddling Association. All the club had to do was pay the shipping.
The boats arrived mid-June and the club immediately began looking for paddlers eligible to compete at the Games. About a dozen interested athletes came out to the first tryout, but only Zrum and Crist stuck with it.
It should be noted that these are not boats common to the Yukon. They are slim with rounded bottoms, which makes them fast but also “incredibly tippy,” as described by Zrum.
Zrum is quite familiar with stable watercraft. He’s been active in whitewater kayaking for over a decade. Crist has a background in gymnastics, so you know he’s got good balance and upper-body strength.
The two have been picking up pointers since the competition began on Monday.
“Tweaks to paddling techniques, how to get better starts in the K-2s, how to pace more,” said Zrum. “We have a lot of great paddlers here. We can watch their technique and pick up a little bit.”
The two competed at two events in B.C., including the provincial championships, to prepare for the Games a little over a week ago. In other words, their competitive experience doesn’t extend beyond the month of August, which we’re not even halfway through.
They are super new to the sport, but they are not getting humiliated.
Zrum was just 14 seconds behind a New Brunswick paddler in the 1,000-metre consolation final on Tuesday.
Crist avoided last in the 500-metre K-1 when a Manitoba paddler was disqualified on Monday. His final position was ninth.
Ninth? Those up on their Canadian geography might raise an eyebrow over that. Newfoundland and Labrador has not been represented in paddling at the Canada Games in over two decades.
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