By Anil Jhalli
A pair of Ottawa paddlers participated in 2018 ICF U23 and Junior Canoe Sprint World Championships last month in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
Madeline Schmidt and Maren Bradley, representing the Rideau Canoe Club, were among the many athletes competing at the international event that saw some of the best young canoers and kayakers from across the globe.
Schmidt, 23, placed 14th in the Under-23 500 metre kayak (K1 U23 500 m) and while she wasn’t happy with her end result, she credits her mentality and preparation as motivation to keep going and achieving her very best.
“Results don’t matter unless you work hard for them, struggle, overcome challenges and are happy,” Schmidt said.
The last time Schmidt had a Top 5 finish in international competition was at the 2013 World Juniors where she placed 3rd.
“Having a purpose and being happy is most important to me,” she added. “Knowing that keeps me going.”
Born and raised in the nation’s capital, Schmidt said she was always active when she was young and enjoyed being around water with her family.
Her mom was also a paddler and used to watch the sport on TV. That’s what sparked Schmidt’s original interest in taking up the sport.
“I get to play on the water, I can’t really complain about that,” Schmidt chuckled. “ I just wanted to become a good paddler and now, I’m pushing my body to different levels everyday.”
Now she’s traveling all over the world, training and competing in different events looking to establish herself as one of Canada’s top kayakers with the Rideau Canoe Club.
“I love everything about the sport,” she said.
Maren Bradley achieved her longtime goal of making and competing at the world juniors this year where she competed in three different events. She raced in the K1 (single kayak) 1000 m and 500 m. She also competed in the K2 (kayak doubles) 500 m race with her partner, Brooklyn Wodehouse from Toronto.
While she came up short in the 500 m event, she placed 2nd in the B final for the 1000 m race. The Bradley-Wodehouse team placed 8th in the 500 m doubles event, a result she was more than thrilled to achieve considering the two had only been training together for two weeks before the competition.
“I was overall pretty happy with my results this year,” Bradley, 16, said. “I got to experience racing at this level and the experience was amazing.”
Bradley’s path to kayaking was similar to Schmidt’s. She grew up and loved being around water, leading her to join the Rideau Canoe Club at age 7. She loved it so much, that she kept going back every year.
“I just never wanted to stop,” added Bradley.
She credits the club with helping mold her into the competitor thanks to positive reinforcement and for surrounding her with so many positive influences.
“There’s so many people to train with,” she said. “It’s so great having older paddlers to look up to. Even though the sport is very much based on a solo performance, you can only get so far without a team to train and have fun with.”
Both Schmidt and Bradley say they dream of someday competing in the Olympics.
Philip Turcanu of the Ottawa River Canoe Club placed 6th in the finals of the Junior C2 1000 m with teammate Alex Plonteux. They were only three seconds behind Russia’s gold medallists.
Chelsea’s Sophia Jensen, 16, won three gold medals in the event’s junior division. She finished in the top spot of the Junior C1 500 m, the C1 200 m, and with teammate Julia Lilley Osende in the C2 500 m.