For Carlos Garcia of Oklahoma City, the 2012 National Team Trials will be his last one before he is eligible to compete for the United States.
Garcia was a national champion kayaker in Cuba. He defected from Cuba during the 2010 Pan American games in Mexico City, leaving his teammates behind and escaping to the United States.
He came to Oklahoma City because Shaun Caven was coaching here.
On Saturday, Garcia and his boat partner, the Israeli-born Rami Zur of Newport, Calif., captured first place in both the finals of the men's K2 200 meters and 1,000 meters.
Zur, 35, has represented both Israel (2000) and the United States (2004, 2008) in the Olympics.
“The first time I met (Garcia) was here (this weekend),” Zur said. “He Facebooked me, asked me if I wanted to paddle K2. I said, ‘Sure, why not.' I'm flying all the way from California. I train five months, regardless of the Olympics or not. I'm a competitor. I like to race. I enjoy it, and if I have an opportunity to jump in a boat, sure, why not?”
WOUNDED WARRIORS COMPETE ON THE OKLAHOMA RIVER
Canoe/kayak will be a Paralympic sport for the first time in 2016.
On Saturday, Paracanoe athletes were vying for spots on the national adaptive team to compete in the World Paracanoe Championships at Paznan, Poland, on May 16-17.
Several of the competitors were former soldiers wounded in combat, such as 21-year-old Stephen Peterson of Florida.
Peterson was a combat engineer who lost his leg last year in an explosion in Afghanistan. He is now being rehabilitated at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, and canoe/kayak is part of the program.
“It's calming to me just getting out there on the water,” he said. “It helps mentally and physically.”