Dylan Puckett's sister didn't want him to row.
Kelseigh Puckett was on the Chesapeake Junior Rowing team and adamant that rowing was her sport and not her brother's. So little brother Dylan was steered toward kayaking to avoid a family feud.
“I am glad she said that,” said Puckett, who is a two-time junior national champion in sprint kayaking.
On Friday, Puckett will be the first Oklahoman since the boathouses were built on the Oklahoma River to compete in an Olympic Trial.
While Puckett knows it's a long shot for him to make the U.S. Olympic team this year, the 16-year-old from Jones has his sights on being an Olympian in 2016.
This from a kid who grew up in central Oklahoma and never stepped into a kayak until they started racing on the Oklahoma River.
“He is the No. 1 male (kayaker) under 16 in the country right now,” said Shaun Caven, director and head coach of Canoe/Kayak at the OKC National High Performance Center.
“I can't say right now if he is going to be an Olympic champion or not but he is in the right place if he wants to do it. It's kind of up to him and a little bit of luck and you never know.
“Kayaking is a late-maturing sport so the vast majority of medalists are winning medals in their late 20s and early 30s, so he has got 16 years to go before he hits his potential. Hard work plus talent equals success. He works hard and he's got enough talent.”
Becoming an Olympic kayaking champion is Puckett's ultimate goal. He is now training full-time now, getting his high school education online through the Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy so he can work out twice a day, six days a week on the Oklahoma River.
“During the week when my friends go to the movies, I am busy kayaking,” Puckett said. “There are a lot of sacrifices, not just a little.”
Puckett was 12 when he joined the OKC RIVERSPORT's Youth Sprint Kayak Program in 2007. He did so just to have fun and to stay in shape during the summer.
His father, Paul, had joined the OG&E corporate rowing team because doctors had advised him to get more exercise after a minor stroke.
At age 12, Puckett admits he was “very chubby.” In football, coaches played him on the offensive line.
“I was the big kid but the short kid,” he said. “I turned into an athlete two years later. Shaun got me into shape.”
Puckett got serious about kayaking after Caven was hired. A former British National coach, Caven guided Tim Brabents to the gold medal in kayaking in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
While Puckett doesn't get to live the life of a normal teenager because of his commitment to compete at a world class level, the trade off has been that kayaking has allowed him to travel the globe.
“I really like the people and the places kayaking takes you,” he said. “I have been to Lake Placid. I have been to Poland and I am probably going to Hungary and Canada this year. I am going to Seattle in two weeks to race in the Paddlers Cup. It's pretty exciting.”