Vermont Kayaker at the Olympics

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(Host) With the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games getting under way tonight in Athens, one Vermonter in particular has high hopes.

VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb reports.

(Wertlieb) 23-year-old Brett Heyl of Norwich waits at the Olympic Village in Athens to compete in the men’s kayak slalom race.

He says his training on the White River and the Mascoma River back home helped him prepare for the event, which goes something like this.

(Heyl) “The best description I’ve heard of it is it’s like alpine skiing down an avalanche. We’re on a white water river; it’s an artificial river they’ve created here in Athens and we have to negotiate about 20 gates, six of which we have to go upstream through, and the course is roughly 100 seconds long.”

(Wertlieb) Getting to Athens was a challenge in itself, especially after a close call in the qualifiers.

(Heyl) “On the second run I flipped over right before one of the gates and if I was upside down when I went through the gate it would have been a 50 second penalty and it would have been game over – but I managed to push off the bottom with my paddle to get my head above water just to go through the gate and then go back under and roll back up to finish the course – and I was still 13th, and that qualified.”

(Wertlieb) Getting mentally prepared for the race is also important. The Vermont kayaker says that you can’t think that you’re a failure if you don’t medal. He says that kind of thinking can lead to disaster.

(Heyl) “So I’m just trying to approach this race just like I have any of the other hundreds races I’ve done. I’m confident that if I race the best I can then the results will be good enough. And that’s all I can do. “

(Wertlieb) Brett Heyl says he’ll try to succeed in Athens by reminding himself that the Olympic race is the same as any other competition.

He’s scheduled to race on August 19th.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Mitch Wertlieb.

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