On the Rhodes to the Worlds
By Steve Spinks
BYRON BAY paddler David Rhodes is hoping a tradition continues at the World Kayaking Championships at Duisberg, Germany, this weekend.
Well, a tradition with a minor amendment.
For the past three world championships, a Byron Bay paddler has won the K1 500m world championship.
That man, Nathan Baggaley - also a dual Olympic silver medallist - is not competing this year, so the mantle has fallen to Baggaley's former school mate and racing partner.
"I'm really focused and I just want to paddle my best race, Rhodes told The Northern Star from Germany.
"There's not much room for error in the 500m, so you need to really concentrate."
The K1 500m is usually over in just over 1m30s.
Rhodes qualified for the world championships back in March with a dominant display at the Australian championships.
He also won the K1 1000m, but Australian Canoeing mystifyingly did not choose him to race in this event.
However, Rhodes has dealt with his initial disappointment of missing out and is keen to leave his mark in the premier sprinters race.
"I think my best event is the 1000m," he said.
"But I'm just focused on the 500m."
Adding to the pressure on the Australian No 1 is that he needs to finish in the top eight to pre-qualify an Australian boat for the Beijing Olympic Games next year.
If he misses out, Rhodes will have to qualify the boat through the Oceania group in March.
Although he has experienced major competition all over the world, including a previous world championship and Olympics, this will be the 31-year-old's debut in an individual event.
He's had encouraging results in some World Cup events in the past few months and believes he is fit enough to knock over the favourites, Adam Van Koeverden, of Canada, and Anders Gustaffson, of Sweden.
The heats of the K1 500m are tomorrow and the finals on Sunday.