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Breakthrough summer highlighted by trip to Youth Olympics
by Dan Kinvig
When Alex Brent arrived in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia at the end of May for the Canoe Kayak Canada national team trials, he was rather anonymous.
Case in point: after the junior men’s K1 1,000-metre race, he overheard two spectators discussing what had transpired.
One observer asked what the order of finishes had been. The other replied with the names of the gold and silver medalists – both well-established paddlers from Eastern Canada.
“And some random guy from B.C. got third,” he added.
That would be Brent, the 17-year-old Dewdney native who had just won his first junior national kayaking medal.
“I was like, ‘Uh, that’s me,’” he recounted with a chuckle.
They surely know his name now – Brent went on to win gold the next day in the junior men’s K2 1000 with partner Eric Fast of Burnaby, winning by a dominant 4.8-second margin. There was so much open water between the Brent/Fast boat and the second-place crew, they started celebrating 100 metres before the finish line because they knew they had the race in the bag.
Those breakthrough performances paved the way to a memorable summer for Brent, as he was named to the junior national team.
In mid-July, he traveled to Szeged, Hungary for the Junior/U23 World Championships, and made the B final in the K2 1000 with Fast, finishing 18th overall.
This week, he hops on a plane for Nanjing, China, where he’s part of the Canadian contingent for the Youth Olympics.
The Youth Olympics are a relatively recent International Olympic Committee initiative, with the first Youth Summer Games being staged in Singapore in 2010. They are held every two years, alternating between summer and winter events, and feature athletes in the 14-18 age bracket.
“This may sound a tad cliche, but I’m just happy to be paddling for Canada,” enthused Brent, who is going into Grade 12 at Abbotsford’s St. John Brebeuf Regional Secondary. “It’s what I’ve been thinking about for years – paddling for the national team. I’m finally at that point, and it just makes me happy.”
Brent got his start in kayaking 11 years ago when he attended a camp hosted by the Ridge Canoe and Kayak Club on Whonnock Lake. He’s been a member of the club ever since.
He attributes his breakthrough summer to a terrific winter of training that preceded it. He spent hours upon hours lifting weights, and sharpened his technique during a six-week training camp in Florida.
“My parents used to describe me as roly-poly,” he said with a chuckle. “But I’ve been growing every single year. In Grade 8, I was 155 (pounds) and 5’2”. Now I’m 5’8” and still 155 pounds. I’ve been slimming out.
“I probably lost 10 pounds of fat and gained 10 pounds of muscle (in the past year).”
Brent’s goal at the Youth Olympics is to finish in the top 10, but “the dream would be to win a medal.”
“That would be phenomenal, to bring it home and show my coach,” he said.