From staff and submitted reports
Local organizers hope a sanctioned Olympic whitewater slalom trial at Rio Vista Falls this weekend will help place San Marcos as a destination for kayakers and other paddle sports.
Athletes including several Olympic medalists have arrived this week from the United Kingdom, Pennsylvania, California, Oregon, North Carolina, Missouri, Colorado, and Georgia for the trial on Sunday, Feb. 17. Top finishers at the event are eligible to compete for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in Charlotte, N.C. at the final qualifier April 26-28.
Among those competing is one of San Marcos’ own resident Olympians, Ben Kvanli, and his double canoe partners, Mark Poindezter, who will start their 2008 Olympic journey on their home course. Owners of Red River Racing on the San Marcos River banks, Kvanli and his wife, Michelle, who will also compete, were instrumental in creation of the park in 2006 at the site of failing Rio Vista dam.
The Kvanlis and company see San Marcos as an emerging hotspot for kayaking and canoeing.
“The San Marcos is perfect for winter training and racing. It is unique in all the world in that it has the perfect water levels, the water and air temperatures are warm, and it is in the middle of a city with good infrastructure. Right now, many international teams travel to places like Costa Rica for winter training, and risk transportation problems and getting ill from the water. Those concerns are erased here,” said Red River Racing team coach, Jim Stuart.
In whitewater slalom, competitors take on challenging rapids and an eighteen-gate obstacle course for time. They must navigate the course cleanly to avoid any time penalties. Each athlete receives two runs, and both runs’ times are added together to create the athletes score. The person with the lowest score wins. Enthusiasts say the sport takes agility, technique, and daring. With top athletes from all over the nation competing for a spot at the Olympic Trials, this weekend’s qualifier will be a unique sight for San Marcos that may grow more familiar with its organizers have their way.