The placid waters of the Alouette River continue to be an ideal training venue for a group of national para canoe team hopefuls.
Home of the Pitt Meadows Paddling Club (PMPC), the river has been, and continues to be, full of boats as paddlers from across Canada take part in a two-week-long training camp in preparation for national team time trials this Friday, April 27 at Burnaby Lake.
The national para canoe training camp, hosted by the local club, got underway on April 16 and continues until the 26th.
Usually this camp takes place in Florida, but the accommodations there have been booked solid for national and international team training for the Olympics in London 2012.
Emma Visser, head coach of the PMPC's PaddleALL adaptive paddling program, said this camp has been great, so far.
"The backdrop of the mountains the paddlers, is just gorgeous for and they have been training hard," Visser told The TIMES.
The camp in Pitt Meadows has attracted some high-profile athletes who have competed at past world championships. They include: Jean Dagher from Ottawa, Sulieman Muse from Toronto, Dave Waters from Dartmouth, N.S., and Christine Selinger from Regina.
"I've been with the camp since in Florida," Visser said. it started "It's great seeing the camp get more organized and more technical and there are larger numbers of athletes, as well."
On Thursday, a pair of wheelchairs and a prosthetic leg lay waiting on the wooden dock during a morning training session.
National team coaches Karen Lukanovich and Jeff Van Horne patrolled dry land while the paddlers -including some from Eastern Canada -sharpened their technique on the water.
Canada's national federation sponsors the annual spring camp, and chose to run it out of Pitt Meadows this year -a wise choice, in Lukanovich's opinion.
"There's a good development para canoe program out here in Pitt Meadows," she said.
"And the river is great -perfect. It's protected and it's calm."
The boatmen and women with the top times from the Burnaby Lake event will represent Canada at the world para canoe championships May 16-17 in Poznan, Poland.
"It's two-fold with this camp," Lukanovich said. "It's development, but athletes who were at the worlds last year are also here."
Paddlers with a variety of experience have been working on their boat skills, balance, steering, and technique along the Alouette.
"Because they're para-athletes, many of them can't steer using the steering we normally do with able-bodied paddlers, using your feet," Lukanovich explained.
"They really need to develop steering skills with their
paddle, so there is lots of skill development."
Attendance has nearly doubled from last year's camp. Van Horne estimated that 13 athletes are taking part.
"It's great to see more and more athletes for us to coach, and the level is increasing every year," he said. "They are getting faster and improving quite a bit."