Old Bonalbo kayaker ready for Beijing

WHILE she hasn't got her Australian uniform yet, nor does she know who she is going to room with, local Olympic hopeful Jacqui Lawrence's mind is firmly focused on the starting gate of the K1 slalom kayak event at the Beijing Games on August 13.

Back in Australia after a tour of the World Cup circuit in Europe, the Old Bonalbo sporting product is putting the final preparations in place to get ready for race day.

Such is the nature of slalom kayaking, that she knows one mistake could cost her any chance of making the final, let alone winning a medal, but she is cautiously optimistic about her chances in Beijing.

“There are a lot of similarities between slalom skiing and kayaking in that you don't get to race on the course beforehand and one small mistake can blow out and have huge consequences,” she said.

“While I'd like to be in the final, a top eight result isn't what I am really focused on. There are just so many variables that I can't control.”

For the uninitiated, and there will be many watching this sport on TV for the first time in Beijing, slalom kayaking involves each competitor racing down a watercourse navigating between 18 to 25 gates.

About six of these gates require the paddlers to go back upstream and the rest are downhill.

Lawrence at least has the advantage of attending a test event in Beijing and describes the man-made course in nearby Shun-Yi province as “really big” water.

“It's going to be a difficult course,” she said. “Each Olympics seems to look at the last and make it bigger and trickier than the previous one.”

The Lawrence family have formed somewhat of a kayaking dynasty at Old Bonalbo, with father Laurie teaching a program at Bonalbo Central School, and his three daughters, Jacqui, Kate and Rosalyn each representing Australia at some level.

Indeed, Jacqui and Kate were both vying for the one available seat in the K1 event at the Olympic selection trials in March.

This time the oldest sister (Jacqui) won out.

“I am really disappointed for her even though if she had made it I wouldn't have been going to the Olympics,” Jacqui said.

With the selection dilemma over and the World Cup circuit now complete, it's now simply a matter of tapering her training and getting ready mentally and physically for Beijing.

Once she gets off the plan in China she'll pick up her Australian team uniform and hopes to be sharing a room in the Olympic village with C1 competitor and boyfriend, Torsten Lachmann. She can hardly contain her excitement.

“It's going to be an amazing thing being able to walk side by side with him at the opening ceremony.”

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