Bay kayakers in a three-way selection duel
By Steve Spinks
Byron Bay kayakers Nathan Baggaley, David Rhodes and Craig Rodgers are locked in a selection duel.
A K2 1000m spot in the Australian team for the world championships later this year in Croatia is the prize.
But three into two won't go.
At least one paddler will get knocked out of contention by a mate from their home town.
This is the scenario facing the trio, who train together on the Gold Coast.
Baggaley has already qualified in the single K1 500m and the K1 1000m.
He has also qualified in a boat with Rhodes in the K2 500m.
Rhodes and Baggaley won the K2 1000m at the second selection trial at the Australian championships last weekend.
But Rodgers and his partner Luke Young, of the Gold Coast, won the first selection trial in February in the K2 1000m.
It means Baggaley and Rhodes and Rodgers and Young will fight it out in a race-off in Sydney on April 8 for the spot.
"I'm looking forward to it," Rodgers told The Northern Star.
"Competing against blokes you know creates a good atmosphere.
"You don't like trying to knock out a friend. But if you put yourself in a situation like ours it's going to happen."
Rodgers is supremely confident that he and Young can turn the tables on their rivals.
"We didn't get a good start (at the nationals)," the 24-year-old said.
"After about the first 100 metres we were already a length-and-a-half behind.
"You can't do that against paddlers like Nathan and David."
But Baggaley and Rhodes also believe they have their younger friend's measure.
Complicating selections is the International Canoe Federation.
In a decision made only last week, the ICF has changed the format of the finals, making it impossible for athletes to back up from single to pairs events over the same distance.
In other words, Baggaley will not be able to repeat his performance from the Athens Olympics when he won silver medals in the K1 500m and K2 500m in the space of an hour.
These events will now be run only 20 minutes apart.
With Baggaley qualified in the K1 and K2 500m, the K1 1000m and possibly the K2 1000m, the dual world champion will be forced to drop at least one race.
"It's never easy with our sport," Baggaley lamented. "I have to say it would be hard to drop the K1 500m."
Baggaley has won the past two world championships over the 500m sprint.
It means Rhodes could be left without a partner for the K2 500m and possible the K2 1000m if he and Baggaley defeat Rodgers and Young next week.
Asked if he would consider taking on Rodgers as his K2 partner if Baggaley withdrew, Rhodes was ever the diplomat.
"We'll see what happens next week," he chuckled. But Craig could be a good option."
The Byron trio have all qualified for the K4 1000m after winning with Young as their fourth crew member at the national titles.
But Baggaley, Rhodes and Rodgers aren't entertaining thoughts of the quartet boat yet.
They have a duel to settle.