By STEVE SPINKS
BYRON Bay Olympic kayaker David Rhodes has walked out on the Australian team in the lead-up to the World Championships in Croatia.
Rhodes, who was selected to represent Australia in the K2 500m and K2 1000m races with fellow Byron Bay paddler Craig Rodgers earlier this year, decided he needed a rest in May and returned home from Europe making himself unavailable for the meet in Zagreb this month.
It was a surprise move by Rhodes who was expected to be a contender at the World Championships.
However, poor form at World Cup events and fatigue were the overriding factors that saw the Gold Coast-based paddler return home.
"I just needed a break," Rhodes told The Northern Star.
"Our (Rhodes and Rodgers) K2 combination wasn't going to be quick enough at Worlds.
"We gave it a good shot but realistically we weren't going to meet our goals.
"I needed a break and my priority is my preparation for Beijing (Olympics)."
Rhodes said Rodgers and the management of the Australian team took his decision to return home early well.
"We (Rodgers and Rhodes) sat down and had a chat about it," Rhodes said.
"He took it really well.
"The AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) and Australian Canoeing were really good and they supported me.
"But we (Rodgers) realised we were off the pace and I needed to come home and have a break.
"We couldn't paddle the K2 the way it needed to be paddled."
After getting home Rhodes had 10 weeks off to recharge the batteries.
"It's the longest break I've had since I starting paddling," he said.
"I've finished renovations on my home, got myself engaged and been flat out at work.
"I've really enjoyed everything else there is in life, besides kayaking."
Rhodes will marry his partner Kasia Zdybel in September.
In hindsight, the 29-year-old thought he should have had a longer lay-off after the Olympics last year.
After finishing an agonising fourth in the K2 1000m with retired partner Daniel Collins, Rhodes jumped straight back into full training on his return from Athens.
The paddler is now back in training and hoping the Aussie team performs well at the World Championships.
As for Rodgers he hasn't missed out on a berth at the World Championships.
Instead of competing in the K2 he will be part of the K4 team which includes another Byron Bay paddler, Nathan Baggaley.
It will be Baggaley's third event at the World Championships after he qualified his boat for the individual K1 500m and K1 1000m.