I trained for five years, more or less full-time, when in 1989 I made the US Team. In that period, I quit school in 1985 after my junior year, because I just wanted to kayak. I also met Kristine who became my wife in 1988 at age 18. Life was good.
The funny thing though was that even though I was training full time for slalom, I still considered myself a “play boater” first, and slalom racer second. I ran Great Falls numerous times each week and got out in my Dancer to surf all of the time. The final thing that took me from never winning a slalom race from 1983 to 1989 (I was always competing against the US Team guys) to winning the first two events of the year and making the US Team, placing second behind Rich Weiss was a 6 week training camp with Richard Fox of England. He taught me what it really meant to train hard. I finished as the top American in the World Cup that year for kayak with a 7th, 6th, and 5th place in the last three races. I was stoked. I came home and trained double time.
The next spring I had my first child, Emily. I was super broke as I tried to train full time and make ends meet working at Armand’s Pizza in Washington, DC. I couldn’t keep up with rent, but found an apartment in Atlanta where Brian Homberg and Eric Giddens was training for no deposit and only $200 for the first month. I moved there just for that break. Hocking camping gear to buy diapers and baby food happened more than once to the dismay of my visiting mother-in-law.
In the fall of 1991 I hurt my shoulder badly in a training camp for the Olympics in Spain. I couldn’t move my arm never mind paddle from November to February. In February I moved to Dickerson, Maryland to train in the new artificial course that they made there that was a near replica of the Olympic Course. I began to do flat-water and whitewater in March. I could only do right hand upstreams during practice so I just went in circles down the course until April. Finally, the day I had dreamed about for many years, US Olympic Trials. Scott Shipley and Rich Weiss made the team on the first day. There was only one spot left on the second day and I won it with a close win over Eric Giddens.
The Olympics was a dream come true, like you hear athletes say all of the time. It is the biggest sporting event in the world. 10,000 athletes and twice as many support people. For me it was about the event, but the Opening Ceremonies is burned in my memory like few other memories I have. My dad and step-mother came to this race, her first and my dad’s third in 8 years (my mother died in 1983). I rented an apartment for my wife and daughter (then two years old) on a mountainside in Andorra. The house was one of five built in 900 ad. I got the money from a fund raiser my friend and neighbor had for me.