Strong winds a big concern for canoe/kayak Olympic hopefuls

By Blake Jackson Modified: April 18, 2008 at 6:46 am •  Published: April 18, 2008
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put so many years in training for this moment; I hope everything turns out for the best.”

Athletes first expressed concern about the conditions in Oklahoma City while holding an exhibition on the Oklahoma River during the Centennial Regatta last October.

"It was supposed to be a test event, but it didn't pass the test,” Zur said of the 30-plus mph swirling winds and sub-60 degree temperatures that greeted Olympic paddlers during the exhibition.

The weather forecast for this weekend is less severe.

Today shows a high near 70 degrees with winds between 20 and 30 mph, but Saturday and Sunday are expected to be calm and clear with highs around 80 degrees.

After the exhibition, athletes inquired about relocating the trials. The Olympic committee balked at the notion.

Instead, it spent the months between October and April sending coaches, officials and technicians to Oklahoma City to test and re-test the course, making sure weather conditions wouldn't affect the trials.

"We designed this course and the event to provide all the flexibility to deal with certain sets of circumstances,” said David Yarborough, executive director of USA Kanoe/Kayak, who ranks the Oklahoma River among the top canoe/kayaking facilities in North America. "We think we accomplished that.”

Technicians installed an extra lane to shift the course north or south as crosswinds become an issue. Officials will monitor wind meters at the starting line. If gusts put outside racers at a disadvantage, officials have been given flexibility with lane seeding.

The schedule is flexible, too. If the weather becomes too severe, officials can cancel or postpone events.

"We're going to make a call on whether or not we've got nine fair lanes,” said head official Charles Luckman. "Tomorrow, winds are forecast from the northwest. That will produce a headwind that will be equally bad. But it will be fair, so we'll go.”

Coach Nathan Luce, for one, is hopeful.

"I'm aware of the concerns, but there's not a lot we can do about that,” he said. "What we can do is hope for the best and take advantage of the great elements of this course.”



Carrie Johnson of San Diego wipes down her equipment after taking a practice run Thursday for this weekend's Olympic Trials on the Oklahoma River. BY CHRIS LANDSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN

U.S. Sprint Canoe/Kayak Olympic Trials
•When: Today-Sunday

•Where: The Oklahoma River

•If you're going: Spectators may enter the event at the corner of Reno and Lincoln.

•Tickets: General admission tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-12 and free for children five and under. For tickets call (405) 235-8288 or log onto www.ticketmaster.com.

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