Kayaking has been a sport in the Olympics since 1924, during the Games of the VIII Olympiad in Paris.
Graeme Biggin and three other top athletes will be participating for the United States kayak team for the upcoming world championships in Treignac, France.
The athletes train by the Wing Dam in Lambertville, N.J., and also in New Hope.
The Wing Dam, Biggin said, is “a world-class piece of whitewater for experts to train on. We often comment that the right channel down the dam is the hardest bit of water we practice on.”
During a normal training session, they usually last about an hour and a half on the water.
“We do a mix of endurance, speed, strength, technique and whitewater practice,” Biggin added.
The kayakers obviously want to be the best in the world and to become the best, you have to be able to train like the best. The training sessions are grueling, and in Biggin’s words, “You train until it hurts and then push past the pain.”
They all use and train on kayak machines, and in the gym, they use the treadmill.
“The best – and one of the best world-class racing rivers – is the Tohickon,” Biggin said. “We sometimes start at the top of it and paddle down to Scudders Falls.”
“I think it’s 23 miles and it takes about two and a quarter hours at race speed,” he added.
As professionals, these men and women take every precaution to make sure everyone stays safe while in the water.
The events that Graeme and his teammates will be participating in is wildwater racing. The objective of this event is to get down difficult whitewater in a long and tippy racing kayak as fast as possible.
“You need to be able to read the river, understand the features and use your skill to choose the fastest line, coupled with strength and endurance to go as fast as possible,” Biggin explained. There are also two runs, he continued. “One is a sprint down the hardest rapid, which usually takes about two minutes and the ‘classic,’ which is about a 20-minute speed race down a hard whitewater river.”
In the local area there is a huge race called the Lehigh Classic in Carbon County, as well as the racing and training that takes place on the Tohickon Creek. There are also other runs like the Red Mo race up at State College, which is one of the oldest whitewater races in the United States.
Biggin would love to find a way to hold a world championship on the Tohickon Creek, and hopes attracting a greater audience to local events will bring awareness to a younger generation.
Biggin and his other teammates will be competing in Treignac, France on June 3.
They all have been training long and hard for this day – pushing past the pain to be known by many as the best in the world.