brought to you by Haley, Team Popp

Friday’s Championship Slalom races has proved to be the biggest event yet at the Junior Olympics! The 40+ competitors were cheered on by spectators lined all the way from the bridge at Slow Joe’s to the end of the course above Worser Wesser. Many kids raced multiple classes, so the day was long and tiring, but the excitement of the competition was enough to keep the smiles going all day!

2010 Junior Olympic qualifiers on the Nantahala 2010 Junior Olympic qualifiers on the Nantahala

The real challenge of today’s race was that it was a longer course (16 gates) than some of the younger kids were used to… upstream gates like gate 9, below the Nantahala Wave, caused several flips and a few swims, and some kids were passed by others as more time was spent trying to avoid missing any gates.

17-year-old Charlie Kieft raced in the C1 and C2 classes today; as he sped through the gates with the grace of an experienced racer, the orange blur of his helmet was the only thing more striking than his speed. The past few years of his career as a canoe racer has been quite eventful. His spot on the Junior US Wildwater Team took him to the Junior World Championships in Buochs, Switzerland in 2009. His up-and-coming slalom career is setting him on the fast track to the Olympics in 2016, which he aspires to compete in after several years of intensive training.

Saturday’s NOC Camp Cup slalom races take place at the gates, and Sunday’s freestyle competition will be an exciting day on the Nantahala Wave for all!