The Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Race Team is dominating the national landscape. Of the 19 athletes selected to Team USA for the Olympic Hopes Regatta in Poland in late September, nine of them were from Gig Harbor’s team.
“That’s pretty solid,” Gig Harbor coach Alan Anderson said.
Team USA had its best-ever performance in the regatta, qualifying for several A-finals. Canoeist Ellie Tieman had the highest finish of anyone from the Gig Harbor team, taking fifth in the C1 200-meter race. She might not have had the chance to travel to Poland at all, however.
“The irony of our females placing well is that early in the spring, we had an international battle to get women included in this event,” Anderson said. “The Europeans have been trying to keep women in canoe out of the sport for some time. When the Polish federation came out with their race entries, they didn’t have any women in canoe. We raised the alarm and fought an international fight. It started in Gig Harbor and pressure came from different countries all over the world.”
Gig Harbor’s athletes, under the direction of high-performance coach Holm Schmidt, continue to make strides in international competition.
“Gig Harbor contributed to a historical regatta,” Anderson said. “We didn’t make the podium in any events, but we had some fifth-, sixth- and seventh-place finishes. Just making the A-finals was an accomplishment over there. It bodes well for our club and our sport.”
Team members enjoyed Poland and interacting with different athletes from all over the world.
“They all had a great experience lining up against the best in the world,” Anderson said. “Camping down next to the Swedish team, Australian team, getting to intermix with their cultures was enjoyed by all.”
The bulk of Gig Harbor’s training begins now, in the fall, to prepare them for competition season in the spring and summer.
“We’re very pleased with the results,” Anderson said. “Holm has got a whole program designed for them. I’m excited to see the results next year with a full-time coach working with them for a full year.”