Byron the kayak kingdom
By Steve Spinks
Everyone has heard of Byron Bay's Olympic kayakers David Rhodes and Nathan Baggaley.
But another Byron kayaker is starting to make a name for himself . . . Craig Rodgers.
Rodgers has earned preliminary selection in the Australian K4 1000m combination and could make the K2 1000m team after impressing at the first national selection trial, a Grand Prix meet at Penrith, over the weekend.
Rodgers, along with Rhodes, Baggaley and Queenslander Luke Young, won the K4 1000m final on Saturday.
Earlier, Rodgers and Young teamed up to win the K2 1000m.
It was a surprise result because the duo are a relatively new combination.
Baggaley and his young partner Reece Baker, of Western Australia, were second.
Rodgers grew up on surf skis at the Byron Bay Surf Club and graduated to kayaks as a teenager.
He has been on the Australian team before as a junior in the K4 team.
He trains with Rhodes and Baggaley on the Gold Coast and he was Baggaley's training partner in Europe last year before the Olympics.
Rhodes continued the day of upsets with victory in the K1 1000m over Baggaley.
He took a clear lead with 150 metres to go and powered away.
Baggaley faded and was pipped for second by Queenslander Ken Wallace by 0.17 of a second.
However, the dual Olympic silver medallist returned to some of his best form yesterday claiming his pet event, the K1 500m.
Baggaley, who is the two-time defending world champion in the event, will be aiming to become only the fourth kayaker to win three K1 500m world titles consecutively.
In winning the final yesterday, he had to hold off both Rhodes and Rodgers who finished in the minor placings.
Later, Rhodes and Baggaley combined to win the K2 500m final.
They are now the raging favourites to represent Australia in the event at the World Championships in Croatia in August.
The second selection trial, in Sydney from March 22 to 26, will double as the Australian Titles.