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Maddison Lewis has no hesitation when asked if she wants to compete at the next Freestyle World Championships.
“For sure,” the 17-year-old said, shortly after finishing her junior K1 semi-final in San Juan, Argentina, overnight.
She didn’t register a score from her two runs, but finished with a big smile on her face.
“This morning I was pretty nervous, I didn’t have much to eat,” Lewis said.
“But sitting up at the top eddy, warming up and talking to the other girls, kind of calmed me down a bit.
“I just wanted to have fun, do what I could, and if I don’t score at least I had fun.”
Lewis has only been doing freestyle for less than one year, training at the Penrith Whitewater Stadium.
She knows she still has a lot to learn from the sport, and has lots of tricks to master.
“I know what I’m going to do, I just don’t know what order,” she said.
“When I’m on the starting line, I’ll try and chuck something, or try and do a move that I haven’t done before.
“I’ll talk about it with my coach, and just go from there.”
The next world championships will be held in Spain in 2019, and coach Jez Jezz is predicting big things from Australia’s young paddlers.
Lewis said she learned a lot about what it takes to compete at the top level, and can’t wait to come back in two years.
“Even though I didn’t get a score, I enjoyed my time, which is what freestyle is all about,” she said.
“A couple of my friends have been watching the live video, and putting videos up and tagging me in them,” she said.
“My mum’s been watching every day as well, so it’s been good. School’s really interested as well.”
17-year-old Maddison Lewis will be Australia’s sole representative in the finals stage of the 2017 ICF Freestyle World Championships in Argentina, but she’s ready for the challenge.
Despite the lack of athletes in the quarter and semi-finals, it’s been a good week for the big Australian team, especially for the junior athletes.
Coach and team captain, Jez Blanchard, is predicting many of the Australian juniors competing at their first world championships in San Juan, will challenge for a top ten finish in two year’s time.
Jack Newland was the best placed of the junior men, finishing 12th with 915 points, just ahead of Christian Hliounakis in 14th on 803.34.
Liam Dowd finished in 22nd place with 343.33 points.
Lewis finished ninth in the preliminaries of the women’s junior competition, and will compete in Friday’s semi-finals.
“It was real fun. I was nervous and kind of scared at the same time,” Lewis said.
“I’ve been doing freestyle since February, so about eight months. I did slalom first, and then I just jumped in at the nationals and realised it was fun.
“I just want to try my best and have fun.”
Pic of Christian Hliounakis by Peter Holcome
The Australian Freestyle Kayak team might not be bringing home any medals from the 2017 ICF World Championships in Argentina, but they’ve gained valuable experience which should set them up to take on the best in the future.
The Australian team is a mixture of experienced and first-timers, and coach Jez Blanchard said every single athlete should feel proud of what they achieved.
“It’s awesome to be part of this Australian team, such a big, awesome, dynamic and energetic junior team which is coming up,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how these juniors do as we progress through the next few years, for sure.
“That’s the thing that I am really excited about. Our junior teams – our junior men, they’ve still got another year to come, and I honestly see big things. Maybe top ten placings for our junior teams at the next World Championships.”
One of the first-timers in action on Thursday was 21-year-old Michaela Dealtry, competing in the women’s K1. She didn’t make it past the preliminary round, but was excited to be at her first world titles.
“Yeah, I was a little bit nervous, I’ve never done it before, so I’m still learning and have a lot more to learn,” Dealtry said.
“I just wanted to give it my best, and learn from this experience for when I come back next time.
“I’ve never really been good at any sports at all, and this is one I actually enjoy doing, and I can learn different disciplines and different skills from it.”
Lewis Wylie competed in the men’s C1, and while he didn’t end up with the score he had hoped for, said he would learn from the experience.
“I didn’t come here to win, more for the experience and to have fun,” Wylie said.
“The run didn’t go to plan, but this happens. I was really nervous, and that showed in my first run, I just kept rushing things.
“I’ve only been doing freestyle for about eight months.”
Team vice-captain Sue Robb was competing in her second World Championships, and returned one of the strongest performances of the day.
“I’m really happy, a big loop which is something I don’t get a chance to do much at home, so I’m pretty happy with this wave,” Robb said.
“Most of us work, or at school or Uni, we’ve had to adapt to the food and the climate but the last week has been great.
“Just paddling, participating – it’s a great thing.”
Teenager Maddison Lewis will be Australia’s sole representative in Friday action, competing in the junior K1 semi-finals.
Pic of Jack Newland courtesy of Peter Holcombe