OLYMPIC medallist Jacqui Lawrence shared her kayaking talents with a dozen sick children on the water at Sydney’s Manly Beach this week.
The children learnt how to use paddles, negotiate buoys and steer a straight path under the Beijing silver winner’s guidance.
“It was lots of fun, the kids were very enthusiastic and I think they got a lot out of it,” Lawrence said.
Born in Cooma, Lawrence, 27, grew up in Old Bonalbo and trained on a dam on her parents’ property, where her father strung wires and built bamboo gates to provide a training course for her.
She and her sisters went on to compete at the highest levels, and Lawrence beat her younger sister, Kate, for the right to represent Australia in the K1 single slalom at Beijing. She carved through the Shunyi whitewater course to claim the silver medal.
Harbourside Manly was ‘nice and flat’, and the children were in sit-on-top kayaks, which made it easy if they tipped over, Lawrence said.
The children were patients of Royal Far West, a charity that takes country kids to Sydney for health care not accessible near their homes. The children who took part in the‘respite’ week – a week off from treatment – came from towns across country NSW including Wagga, Forbes and Harden. Lawrence became a ‘champion for country kids’ for the organisation when it approached her after Beijing.
Royal Far West CEO Jann Kingston said the morning was a great opportunity for the children to experience something new.
“When you expose our kids to people like Jacqui they see their challenges and health issues are things which can be improved andsometimes overcome. It’s a fun and wonderful experience but it’s also the kind of experience where children feel inspired to be the best they can,” Ms Kingston said.
And did anybody get wet? “Only on purpose,” Lawrence said.