Olympic kayaker makes case for Rio 

Tayler wins all four K-1 races at national trials in Pemberton on May 21 and 22

click to enlarge PHOTO BY RFORT FOTOS/COURTESY OF CANOE KAYAK CANADA - TAYLER-MADE Kayaker Michael Tayler dominated at the Canadian Canoe Slalom Team Trials in Pemberton over the weekend.
  • Photo by Rfort fotos/courtesy of Canoe Kayak Canada
  • TAYLER-MADE Kayaker Michael Tayler dominated at the Canadian Canoe Slalom Team Trials in Pemberton over the weekend.

The road to Rio de Janeiro detoured through Pemberton over the Victoria Day long weekend.

It's a journey that 2012 Olympian Michael Tayler hopes to complete in full.

The 24-year-old Ottawa kayaker dominated the nine-man field at the Canadian Canoe Slalom Team Trials at Rutherford Creek Whitewater Park on May 21 and 22, winning all four men's K1 races. In a system where the lowest score wins, Tayler didn't accumulate a single point over the course of the weekend on what he called Canada's top racing site. Tayler noted the Ottawa course, for example, isn't quite big enough for international-level competition.

"It was obviously pretty fantastic. You can't ask for anything more. It was really nice to be out there again and using that facility," he said. "The last time I was out there two years ago was for the national trials as well. It's such a great course.

"When we get out there, it's always great to be racing there."

Though he impressed on the weekend, Tayler only put himself in good position to secure Canada's lone K1 spot in Rio de Janeiro as opposed to locking it down. Canoe Kayak Canada brass will also look at results from upcoming World Cup events in La Seu d'Urgell, Spain, and Pau, France before making its final choice. He'll be up against Aurora, Ont.'s John Hastings and Edmonton's Ben Hayward for the slot.

"It's so competitive. Every single country has got to earn the spot first, which is hard enough, and then once you get the spot, you've got to battle it out between everyone in the country," he said. "It is good that we're using both a domestic race and international (ones) as well so that they use a variety of experiences. You have to be able to perform at the World Cups as well in order to get that spot."

Drawing from his experience of qualifying and taking 20th at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, Tayler found himself wiser and better prepared to make a move this time around trying to defend his position.

"I was only 20 and hadn't made the team before. I was just hoping to make the national team and this year, I just focused on the process and keeping everyday like it would be in training," he said. "I've been racing a lot this year in Australia, New Zealand, France, Spain.

"I got to the start line and I just felt like normal, which is exactly what you want."

Even though he prepared how he wanted to, Tayler acknowledged there were some nervous moments leading into the two-day trials.

"It's always such a stressful weekend. For most athletes, it can be sometimes the worst weekend of the year because you've got to race off against your countrymen and there are so few spots. Unless you have a great race, you're never really feeling so great about it," he said. "It's nice to have a good trial every couple of years. I picked a good time to have a good one, too."

The competition for the men's C1 canoe spot in Rio is down to two racers from four, as Dunrobin, Ont.'s Cameron Smedley took three wins out of four with Ottawa's Spencer Pomeroy capturing the other.

Canada did not earn Olympic women's quota spots, but used the trials to help determine its slalom senior elite team. Innisfail, Alta.'s Jessica Groeneveld is the lone K1 racer, while Calgary's Haley Daniels represents the C1 squad.


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