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Train Like an Olympic Kayaker

Olympic paddler Tim Hornsby offers insight on how to achieve kayak and canoe skills fit for this summer's Games.

Joe Jacobi

Olympic gold medalist Joe Jacobi, who won the two-man canoe slalom event in 1992, provided some insight into how different training is between whitewater and flat-water canoe/kayak. 

“For the whitewater, every set of rapids is unique to itself, and if you want to do whitewater, you’ve got to spend a lot of time on the course learning every hydraulic, every wave, every bit of movement to the water,” says Jacobi, who currently works as the chief executive officer at USA Canoe/Kayak. “So one of the big differences is that the whitewater athletes make many, many trips to London, and spend a lot of times getting as many runs down the Olympic whitewater course as they can.”

Slalom is a completely different animal in that sense, that being able to navigate any given course as well as possible through prior experience is arguably the most important aspect to success in competition. Still, he says that training methods have changed since his days of competition (which ended after the 2004 Olympics), when the vast majority of training was just getting out on the river and paddling.

“I think the sprint has always been more focused on training and I think it’s served as a model for slalom training to develop that way,” he says.

To train a bit more like a sprint kayaker, Hornsby suggests incorporating more sprint workouts, which he has been increasing recently, as well as plenty of core workouts and any sort of exercise that involves pulling, like pull-ups and pull-downs.

Hornsby will compete in his first Olympics this summer at the age of 25. With most kayakers peaking at about 30 years old, Jacobi was thrilled to talk about Hornsby’s future in competition. “He’s just so young and he’s got so much time to grow. It’s just really exciting to see what he can do this year, and more importantly, how he takes that moving forward.”

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