Rhodes clogged by weeds
By STEVE SPINKS firstname.lastname@example.org BYRON BAY kayaker David Rhodes has slammed Australian Canoeing about the state of the Sydney International Regatta Centre, Penrith.
Rhodes, who qualified for the final of the K1 500m yesterday during the first day of competition at the Oceania Olympic Qualification Regatta, said that Australian Canoeing had let the facility drop below international standards.
"The state the course is in .... the weed is atrocious," Rhodes said.
"The weeds slows down the boat and can get caught on the rudder or the front of the boat.
"A bit of weed could put you out of the Olympics." Rhodes said that there were certain lanes that were worse than others.
"It begs the question does the organising committee take Australian Canoeing seriously," the 32-year-old said.
"We had State (Championships) there seven weeks ago and it was just as bad then.
"What would the organisers say to an athlete who might be unfortunate enough to get caught up in the weed."
The issue came to a head yesterday when the New Zealand team lodged an appeal following the two Olympic qualifying events.
Both the races were won by Australia, giving them extra spots in the K1 500m men and women's events at Beijing.
The Kiwis lodged an appeal stating that they had been unfairly obstructed by weed on the course.
The appeal was turned down by the competition committee. However, special boats fitted with scoops were sent down each lane to clear some of the weed halting racing for an hour.
An Australian Canoeing spokesperson said: "The problem was fixed this morning. It just so happend some lanes were worse than others but it's fine now.
"The boats will continue to work during each break." The Kiwis may yet lodge a further appeal.
Rhodes is not only concerned for his fellow competitors but this regatta is vitally important to help him exorcise some ghosts from the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Rhodes and his partner Daniel Collins came within centimetres of claiming a medal in the K2 1000m event at Athens and to come so close but ultimately fall short was devastating.
Only last week, four years after the event, Rhodes watched the race for the first time on television.
"I still can't understand how we lost a medal," he said. "It (the race) only feels like yesterday. I remember we were at the 750m mark and we pushed up with the Swedes. "Geez we were close."
Rhodes will contest the K1 1000m event today along with Bonalbo paddler Sam Norton who bowed out in the heats of the K1 500m.
Byron's Katrina Wilkinson also didn't progress past the heats of the women's K1 500m.