Croatian quest for Byron kayak ?king
By Steve Spinks
Byron Bay's kayak 'king' Nathan Baggaley will be aiming for a piece of history when the 34th International Canoe Federation World Championships start tonight in Croatia.
If Baggaley can win the K1 500m title he will be only the fourth paddler in history to win three world championships.
Romanian Vasile Diba (1974, 1977 and 1978), Soviet Vladimir Parfenovich (1979, 1981, 1982 and 1983) and Hungarian Akos Vereckei (1998, 1999 and 2001) are the only other three-time world champions in the K1 500m.
If he takes the title this year he will become only the third kayaker to win three titles in consecutive championships.
Baggaley and his three partners from the K4 1000m team ? Craig Rodgers (Byron Bay), Ken Wallace (Gold Coast) and Luke Young (Gold Coast) ? arrived at Lake Jarun, near Zagreb, last Sunday after undergoing a gruelling altitude training camp in St Moritz, Switzerland.
The dual Olympic silver medallist from Athens will contest the K4 1000m for the first time and he will also start in the K1 1000m and the K1 500m.
"I'm looking to improve on my third placing from the last world titles and my fourth at the Olympics in the K1 1000m," Baggaley said in an email from Europe.
"I'm also looking to improve in the K1 500 metres from the Olympics where I finished second.
"Things have been going really well at altitude with the lower oxygen level being really noticeable, not only in training but in everyday activities.
"Walking up a set of stairs was hard work.
"We trained four times a day for six days a week including a lot of cross training to build up our lungs."
With the training done, it's now time for action.
Baggaley will be the first Australian paddler to compete at the championships in the third heat of the K1 1000 metres.
Finals for all the events will be held on Saturday and Sunday.