Becoming Canadian National Champion – 2015

After coming home for a couple days, I was already flying across the country to attend Canadian National Championships in Chilliwack, BC.  I was extremely excited to attend this competition because this is by far one of the most breathtaking parts of Canada. The downfall of this competition was that there was very little water in the river since it was a very dry and hot summer.   Nonetheless, we tried to make do and have fun in the river surrounded by beautiful mountains.  With only three days to really paddle, it was not ideal however it did not stop us from having a good fun race.  This race was particularly enjoyable for me since it helped me forget about panam politicsK1W - Downriver sprint podium.

Since we combine our slalom nationals with downriver nationals, I decided to also participate in downriver sprint C1 and K1 where I surprisingly did as well in C1 as I did in K1.  This was my first downriver sprint race and surprised myself by coming in front of Jessica Groeneveld, Florence Maheu and recently crowned pan am champion Jazmyne Denhollander.K1W U23 Slalom Championships Podium

On Saturday, we hosted the U23 and Jr. Slalom Nationals.  I was stoked to be back in my C1 however I was also excited to start my big debut racing kayak! In canoe, I was happy to win both races, retaining my U23 National Champion title.   As for kayak, I was so excited to be out there racing and came in third behind Jazmyne Denhollander and Florence Maheu.  It was a pleasure to share the podium with these great ladies.

The most important day took place on Sunday – this was going to be the determining semi-finals and finals races that would crown the national champions.  Once again I paddled in both K1 and C1 since I had so much pleasure doing so the days before.  In K1, the competition became a bit tighter; I struggled to end up with a podium finish however I was still satisfied with my first K1 race.  This will have been my first time consistently paddling kayak.   As for C1, I dominated the overall weekend, winning semi-finals and finals with some solid runs.  I was very happy to 2015 C1 Senior National Champion in Chilliwack with Lois and Haley :)prove myself that I am capable of throwing down consistent racing runs that were fast and precise. This was a great push of encouragement for me.  Becoming Canadian National Champion was an awesome feeling after having taken a step back from slalom.  Jessica Groeneveld also became K1 Canadian National Champion and I was so happy to share that moment together.

To celebrate this achievement, many of us decided to stay a bit longer and paddle.  We ended up going to the cost of the ocean where we surfed an awesome wave called Skookumchuck and the next day headed to Washington for a day of hiking before heading home.

Overall this was an unforgettable week.  I am overjoyed with the racing and adventures I got to experience.

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Thanks Rfort Fotos for the great shots!

The Challenges Faced during TO2015 Pan Am Games and Olympic Qualifiers

In July, TO2015 had finally arrived… Sitting on the sidelines was harder then I had expected. It once again hit me that female canoeists did not have the same opportunity as men…  As much as I was thrilled to see the canoe slalom (as well as C1W) included for the first time ever in the Pan Am Games, I was saddened by the fact that C1W did not have the same opportunity as other classes to add two additional boats.

What was different about this competition is that the 2015 Pan Am Games would be used as an Olympic qualifier for the 2016 Rio Olympics.  This means that in addition to the Pan Am medal contenders, TO2015 has made an exception to allow the ICF (International Canoe Federation) to hold the Olympic selection qualifier simultaneously during the Pan Am Games event.  This allows two extra boats in each category per nation to compete at the Games (the two second boats being ghost boats at the TO2015 Games).  See boat allocations below. I understand the logic behind preventing to additional C1W from competiting at an Olympic qualifier since we are not yet included, however why does this really matter? By allowing these women the same right to compete, inequality can be reduced behind the scenes.  This simple act not only reduces gender inequalities, but also allows C1W to race in a major event and practice racing as if they were qualifying for potential Olympic quotas in 2020.

This being said, I was deeply troubled when I discovered that C1 women will not have the same opportunity.  Specifically, additional C1 women (besides the single Pan Am Games qualified boat) will be prohibited to compete at this event.  That means that two women from each country will not have the same opportunity as the other classes to compete because we chose the wrong discipline.  The main argument to defend this rule is because we are not yet gender equal at the Olympics therefore we are unable to qualify spots for the upcoming Olympics. TO2015 Boat Allocations

If they were to include these extra female athletes, it would mean that a maximum of 10 female canoeists would be given the opportunity to race down the course which would add an average 20 minutes to the racing schedule per day which is not a huge constraint.  With regards to the potential additional cost by including female canoeists, a maximum of ten more athletes would have not clog up transportation in Minden.  Big shuttle buses were already pre-arranged and were leaving every 20 to 30 minutes all day long.  In addition, with regards to food expenses, extra racing sandwiches would not have been too much of a financial burden, and either way, there was lots of extra food. Nonetheless, we would not care for the gourmet race lunch since we would have just been happy to race.  Concerning water releases, additional boats were allowed on the course either way (demonstration boaters, safety boaters etc.) it was clear that adding female canoeist to the training schedule was possible.  It has been done on numerous occasions and can be done again.  TO2015 has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to this event so adding a few extra female athletes would not even come close to a financial burden in comparison.

After discovering this rattling news, I immediately took it upon myself to write a letter to the ICF, more specifically the members of COPAC (Pan American Canoe Federation) asking them to please reconsider their decision in excluding additional C1W from racing at this event.

I ended my letter stating:

Closing argument to COPAC

Sadly, I got no response.  As surprised as we were, my previous coach James Cartwright, who is now the Slalom High Performance Director of CKC (Canoe Kayak Canada) had to go meet with them personally to ask if it was possible to reconsider their decision and let us to compete but they denied the opportunity.  My team mates were also concerned about this unequal opportunity and wrote to them, but did not get a response either.

This was a huge blow, specifically to the additional C1W who could have raced at this event for additional racing experience.  Lois Betteridge, an upcoming team mate of mine was also denied the opportunity to compete which troubled her as well.  Just entering the new sport of canoe slalom, at only 17 years old, she was denied competition.

I found this to be quite ironic considering that I read on the “Latest News” of the COPAC website, that Cecilia Farias MacDonald, the President of the Pan American Federations, was apparently awarded an “Achievement diploma for her outstanding contribution to promoting the development and participation of women and girls in sport”.    (See at the very bottom for printscreen)

It is clear that for TO2015, ICF & COPAC, allowing additional female canoeist from competing would not have added a huge financial burden.  On the other hand, for female canoeists, including C1W in every possible way contributes tremendously to the development of our discipline and the progression towards a more gender equitable sport.  This particular problem is just one puzzle piece to the bigger problem of gender inequity that is still being propagated in the 21st century …

In the end, we still offered our services and volunteered our help to participate as forerunners. For those who are unfamiliar with this term, a forerunner opens the competition, the forerunners are used to demonstrate the race course by paddling the chosen gate sequence before the official race so that the racers can analyze and learn the difficulty of the set racecourse.

I came to TO2015 prepared to support my team mates and the competitors.  I thought I was prepared to sit on the sidelines however it was harder than I thought it would be.  After getting into a few too many heated discussions with the authorities of the race I was also denied the chance to paddle therefore I was not allowed to continue proper training during this event.  As hard as it was to stay solely as a spectator, I did my duty and encouraged the slalom competitors.  I left this event with very mixed emotions.  I was notably ecstatic for my team mate Jazmyne Denhollander and good friend Michal Smolen for winning gold medals meaning they both earned an Olympic quota for their discipline.  However it was also a big mental challenge sitting on the sidelines and made me realize that there is no place I would rather be than on the water at that very moment.

I would like to thank everyone who was so supportive of me during this challenge and specifically Molly Killingbeck who gave me her wisdom and guidance.  Even though she was busy running this whole event, she was always there to lend me a hand and offer me a shoulder.  This challenge has definitely made me grow as a person and as an athlete.

I didn’t mention everyone but you all know who you are 🙂

Group pic with some of my closest ;) From the left,with Michal Smolen K1M Pan Am Champ USA & of course Keenan Simpson K1M jr. and Natasha O'Connel K1W jr.

Group pic with some of my closest 😉 … From the left,with Michal Smolen K1M Pan Am Champ USA & of course my fellow Canadian juniors Keenan Simpson (K1M jr.) and Natasha O’Connel (K1W jr.)

Latest news COPAC

The reason I did not compete at the 2015 U23 Worlds in Brazil & The coming of 2015 Canadian National Team Selections in Minden, Ontario

Coming May, 2015 U23 World Championships in Brazil were quickly approaching… This year would have been my last Under 23 World Championships.  I was faced with a challenging decision of either rejecting my spot or going to Worlds in Brazil with little training.  In the end, I decided that I shouldn’t do it.  The Worlds were during many of my exams, I was short of training therefore I knew I was not likely to paddle up to my best potential and I was once again short of money.  I told myself, I will only do two competitions this year and they’ll only be national ranking ones: team trials and national championships.  I chose these ones because they were my cheapest option that would give me a taste of slalom again, plus it so happened that these competitions were mandatory to fulfill my requirements as a Quest for Gold funding recipient.

Canadian national team trials 2015

Canadian national team trials 2015

In May 2014, I arrived at National Team Trials with a huge mix of emotions. I was a bit scared since I hadn’t really been in my boat all winter and Minden is a very fast demanding course. These team trials were particularly different because it was also the TO2015 Pan American Games selections.  The first boat in every category had the chance to compete in the Pan Am Games (which are kind of like a mini Olympics for the Americas).   Considering the circumstances, I was also very excited… it was nice being in a boat and paddling in somewhat “warm” weather! I hadn’t been paddling all winter and I guess I had a bit of slalom withdrawal. Despite not being the Pan American boat, I surprised myself by still making team and pulling through some half descent runs considering I hadn’t been training hard in my boat since 2014 Deep Creek Worlds.  I ended up making Canadian National Team once again and felt quite happy and excited.  Although I didn’t plan on competing at any international competitions, I was happy to make requirements and this gave me the ability to make my own personal choice of participating internationally this year or not.  My decision to compete would depend on my commitment to re-enter competing seriously in the sport and if I could work enough at my part-time job to save up enough money when I was not training and coaching.

Escaping to Medellin, Colombia

After coming home from my exchange, I felt a bit lonely… My team mates and friends had left for training in Penrith, Australia and New Zealand.  Although I decided to live the normal student life, I felt as though something was missing. I knew going to Australia or NZ was out of the question since it was an extremely expensive trip but I had this urge to up and go again.

After class, I was catching up with my friends, and had reconnected with a good friend (Dan Dunn) that I had worked with in the past at Esprit Rafting.  Dan goes to Colombia every winter to explore the Colombian natural wonders and had managed to kick off a great company with his good friend Jules Domine: Expedition Colombia.  Based in the beautiful mountains of Medellin, this company offers the great opportunity to be a part of a custom-made adventure guided by professional kayakers who will show you the true magnificence that Colombia has to offer.  They have done a fantastic job in running many first kayak descents here opening these playgrounds to other kayakers!

He told me I should definitely come down and check it out, and as much as this was tempting I knew I couldn’t afford going anywhere.  Sure enough, I had forgotten about my Christmas money that I had carefully stored over the years and it was just enough for one cheap plane ticket to South America!  Pretty soon, it was validated… During reading week (winter school vacation), I was going to Colombia for 10 days.  During these unforgettable 10 days, I was able to experience the beautiful culture and people here.  I finally had the opportunity to see this truly breathtaking country that I heard so much about in books and shows.

During my time there, Expedition Colombia was hosting the first annual Samana Festival which consists of a four day river trip on the Samana River filled with good company, wilderness, food, parties, and of course – paddling! We also had the great opportunity of travelling from Medellin to Antioquia in a traditional bus called the Chiva.  This was a real cool authentic experience.  We got to drive through breath taking scenery not missing a view in this great big party bus.  Although I only got to paddle once in kayak since the river ended up in flood, I can truly say that it was great fun!

We ended the trip with a great expedition by motorcycles in Cocorna, Colombia.  Here I got to experience my first paragliding experience with Parapente Cocorna.  I was in awe of how fun and beautiful the city was from above.  If you are thinking of coming to Colombia, I truly recommend hitting up these two great outdoors companies.  They will make your experience here TRULY unforgettable.

Facing Crossroads following Deep Creek World Championships 2014 – Science Po Paris

Meeting the President of France, Francois Hollande during Armistice Day :)

Meeting the President of France, Francois Hollande during Armistice Day 🙂

After a huge disappointment at Canoe Slalom World Championships in Deep Creek USA (2014), I had to take a huge step back and reevaluate my priorities. I was juggling my personal life, my school ambitions, my career and of course my canoe slalom aspirations.  The results had taken a toll on me, lack of funding and politics were also laying another huge stress on my shoulder, and these seemed to be overpowering the true reason I entered canoeing – pure happiness on the water.  I needed to take a breather and really take a look at my priorities.  I thought to myself… School should be my most important priority.  I should finish as quickly as possible and get a good paying job, because that’s what most average young adult aspire to do.

In September 2014, after being accepted to study abroad for a semester at Sciences Po Paris, I was prepared to live a new adventure – that of living a “normal” student life.  It was a heck of an adventure, I lived unforgettable experiences.   After doing this I can honestly say that I highly recommend every student to take the leap and study abroad.  I learnt to live on my own in a new country, I had great professors who taught me many different interesting subjects, made amazing friends, and even got to meet THE President of France.  Sadly, canoe slalom training wasn’t in the cards for me.  Training in Paris is very challenging hard since there are no gates, there are no places to store boats, gyms are expensive and leaving every weekend is too costly. Nonetheless, I knew this was going to be the case therefore I wasn’t surprised.  I thought to myself, I’m prepared to take a big break from slalom training. I think I needed to leave to see if I really wanted to come back.

Class room at the Champs Élysée on Armistice Day

Class room at the Champs Élysée on Armistice Day

In January 2015, after coming back home in from studying abroad in, I restarted living the “normal” student life that I had challenged myself to experience for a change.  That meant no winter training camps, no United Arab Emirate training camp, no Australia, etc… On one hand this choice was purposely taken to take a good step back, but also partially because I didn’t have the financial means to afford these types of trips.   Other then friend and family support, I received provincial funding from Quest for Gold thanks to my national results and ranking.  This has been a huge help and is one of the few supporters that has funded my international expenses.  Thanks to Quest for Gold, I was able to go to U23 World Championships in Australia! But even with that, it was still not enough and still indebted myself.  Unfortunately for me, since canoe slalom still suffers extreme gender inequity – female canoeist do not have the same chance as men to compete at the Olympics.  Although my sport is an Olympic sport, and eligible for carding, the C1W discipline is still prohibited from competing therefore, we are also prohibited from receiving many different funds such as “Canadian Carding”.  I want to clarify that my sole dream is not to go to the Olympics, if I paddle it’s because it brings me joy… and by chance since I was little, I have always preferred canoeing over kayaking… I think my main problem with this whole ordeal, is that women aren’t given an equal chance to receive support and to compete… No athlete likes to be prevented from competing.

….On the bright side of things, here are a few extra shots among many taken during my great experince in Paris.

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My journey following up to one memorable summer! 2015

It’s with great sadness that I’m writing that my summer has come to an end.  I can safely say that it’s been among my best summers ever. Unfortunately I had to reject going to the upcomming 2015 Canoe Slalom World Championships in London due to lack of funds. BUT I am wishing all of my team mates and competitors the best of luck!! 🙂

… It’s been one hell of a year! These months have been filled with uncertainty, happiness, sorrow, excitement and every possible emotion.

After a huge disappointment at Canoe Slalom World Championships in Deep Creek USA (2014), I had to take a huge step back and reevaluate my priorities.

I want to share with you my story and my adventures this past year for those who are curious! 🙂 Many posts to come over the week!

Deep Creek Worlds 2014

Deep Creek Worlds 2014

McGee secures her spot on the 2013 Canadian National Team.

After a long weekend of racing I’m relieved and proud to say I’ve once again earned my spot on the 2013 Canadian Senior National Team! With the water levels at a record high, racing on the Gull River was no walk in the park. The sudden water changes definitely tested our skills to adapt to sudden changes, as well as our whitewater skills on big fast water. It was a hard and stressful weekend of racing but I’m happy to say I pulled through. In my case, I definitely didn’t play it safe and qualified in the last moments of selections, in the very last race. I definitely put people on edge, including myself. As much fun as it was to paddle high water, I’m glad it’s done and I’ve validated my place.

Since Monday May 20th, slalom paddlers across Canada have been training on the Gull River in Minden ON for this past weekend’s (May 26-27) Canadian National Team Trials. All week, athletes had to adapt to the constant change in water levels. Originally, Team Trials were planned to be held at 20 CMS and were regulated at this water level Monday till Wednesday. However, continuous heavy rainfalls all week caused another city flood alert in Minden and required a full water release of the dam. The two last days of training, Thursday and Friday, we had to quickly familiarize ourselves with the water change and become accustomed to the new course before race weekend. Just to give you an idea of how high water levels were, the average water level for national races held here at the Gull River are held at ̴20 CMS and international ranking races are held at ̴30 CMS such as the World Cup Slalom tour in both 1991 and 1993. Our Canadian National Team Trials were held at a whopping 40 CMS this weekend! Never a dull moment! For full results of the national team, click here. Congratulations to all the athletes who competed this weekend!

Thank you for all encouraging messages before 2013 Canadian Team Trials.

Since making 2013 Senior National Team I’ve decided to focus on four major important races this year:

This will definitely be a costly summer of racing! Any help and contribution to help get me to these races will be greatly appreciated and I’ll be so ever grateful!

I’m now back in Ottawa taking a couple of days of well deserved rest to start planning this season’s training and racing season.
Cannot wait for the upcoming competitions! I’m extremely excited & I’ll definitely give more updates throughout my summer adventure.