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Pemby paddlers prepping for worlds

Three locals to represent Canada at IVF Va'a World Sprints in Australia



Three Pembertonians will head down under next month in search of gold.

Corinne Graves, Quinn Phare and Hana Ronayne all qualified to represent Team Canada at the IVF Va'a World Elite and Club Sprint Championships on Australia's Sunshine Coast after impressing the team brass at Western Canadian time trials last fall. The competition will run from May 5 to 15. Graves is the only one to have gone before, donning the maple leaf in the masters women event in 2012 when the event was in Calgary.

"Worlds are incredible — the whole group of people and how they all come together and they all share the same love for the sport. It becomes quite a little community," she said. "All the countries do a host night where they present something from their countries. In 2012, we did a line dance with cowboy hats and everything.

"It's a really good feel when you're down there."

Graves discovered her teammates after the time trials were complete, attending a training camp with them in Vancouver last month before meeting up with many of them in Victoria for a competition, gaining familiarity all the while.

"Not everybody was able to make it, but pretty much my whole Team Canada team was there," she said of the training camp. "It was over two days and we just tried to get a feel for everybody and a feel for where everybody should sit in the boat. We just got to know each other and how we paddle."

Graves acknowledged it's difficult coming as an outrigger from a club primarily known for its dragonboat contributions.

"The club is quite small in the sense of outriggers. The dragonboat (contingent) is quite substantial but our outrigger (contingent) is quite small. It's hard to get into an OC6 (six-person boat) because we don't have enough people a lot of the time so what we do is we train a lot in... single boats," she said. "We go out there on the lake and just do tons of sprints with little breaks.

While the younger competitors, Phare and Ronayne, will fly solo in the U16 division in addition to racing on open men's and women's teams, respectively, Graves said given her dragonboat background, she prefers paddling with pals.

"I'm used to racing with more than one person and I like that better," she said. "Coming from a dragonboat background with 20 of us paddling in a boat, I didn't want to go smaller than six."

Phare, meanwhile, is one of the younger competitors at just 14. His sister, Lauren, was part of the squad when it went to Calgary and she's provided him some advice to keep calm.

Phare, who will race in single as well as six-person and 12-person boats, is pumped for the chance to go.

"It's very exciting," he said. "I've been racing in different boats for quite awhile but this is my first time doing outrigger. It's amazing to have this opportunity."

To prepare, Phare said he's been hitting the water every day for the last couple of months in order to properly prepare and put his best foot forward in Australia.

"Honestly, I'm just thrilled that I even made the team," he said. "I don't really have any expectations of myself. I want to go out and do the best I can and at the end of the day, be happy with that."