Sept. 20 One month after winning the Silver Medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, Rebecca Giddens was at it again on her 27th birthday Sept. 19, winning the women's kayak class at the Whitewater Slalom National Championships. Anna Jorgensen came in second and Hannah Larsen was third.
See photos and learn more about the U.S. slalom team at www.usacanoekayak.org.
Racing on Sunday however was not without its challenges. The aftermath of Hurricane Ivan and a strong storm from the Midwest caused the Potomac River to rise and back up into the Dickerson Whitewater Course, essentially turning one of the USA's best whitewater courses into a semi-flatwater event. Race organizers shortened the course to take advantage of what small rapids remained near the top.
Giddens also teamed up with her husband and Olympic coach, Eric Giddens, in the mixed C-2 class and placed first there as well. With the Eric Giddens' second-place finish in the men's K-1 class, the Kern River Alliance club, which happened to be represented by only the two Giddens, gained the most points in the Club Competition and brought home the Club Trophy.
Perhaps the most compelling event of all was the men's K-1 class, where Scott Mann won his first National Championship. Mann narrowly missed the 2004 Olympic Team, but showed how close the top U.S. paddlers are by beating the Olympians who returned just three weeks ago. Eric Giddens was second and Brett Heyl was third. Scott Parsons, who finished sixth at the Athens Games, received a costly penalty on his second run and finished fourth.
The C-1 class was dominated by Joe Jacobi, 2004 Olympian and 1992 Gold Medalist who usually paddles in the C-2 class. Jacobi's regular partner, Matt Taylor, could not make it out so Jacobi went at it alone in a specially painted boat that promoted the NYC 2012 Olympic Bid. Placing second was Scott Parsons, who is normally a K-1 paddler. In third was fifteen-year-old Benn Fraker, who two months ago placed fourth at the Junior World Championships. Fraker showed promise of some amazing potential at such a young age.
The C-2 class was won by Scott McCleskey and Jeff Larimer, both members of different boats on the U.S. National Team. McCleskey usually paddles with David Hepp, and Larimer with Frank Babcock, but the two came together successfully without the presence of their teammates. A hodgepodge team of Joe Jacobi and US canoe coach Yves Narduzzi placed second, and the father-son team of Jamie and Devin McEwan was third.
Notwithstanding the mostly flooded course, the U.S. Slalom National Championships was a great success, and America's best paddlers showcased their talents for all to see. The weather was perfect, and spectators were treated to a continuous dazzling display of technical gate work. Paddlers now look forward to the off-season to cross-train and hone their skill for next year's competitive season.