SPORTS

Young Nova Scotia athletes take war canoe to London Olympics

05/12/2012 03:03 EDT | Updated 07/12/2012 05:12 EDT
WAVERLEY, N.S. - Fourteen teens valiantly paddled on one knee in a newly minted war canoe in Nova Scotia on Saturday, a practice-of-sorts for the crew's appearance at the London 2012 Olympics this summer.

The team of boys and girls from Cheema Aquatic Club in Waverley, N.S., was selected to represent Canada at a demonstration event at the Olympics, where other boats from around the world will be exhibited.

Club supporters and officials from Canoe Kayak Canada watched from the shore as the crew of 14, 15, and 16-year-olds guided the war canoe through the waters of Lake Thomas on its maiden voyage.

A few smiles could be seen as the team vigorously cut their paddles into the sun kissed lake.

For 16-year-old Hayley Nelson, heading to London means that she's one step closer to her dream of competing at the Olympics.

"It's going to be something that our whole crew will be able to remember for the rest of our lives. We're so thankful for this boat," said Nelson of Wellington, N.S., pointing to the mighty war canoe.

"We're overwhelmed and thankful for all that is happening."

Nelson's teammate Tyler Graves was also beaming with Olympic hopes.

"Although it's only a demonstration boat when we go there, we all have the dream and desire to someday actually compete in the Olympic Games," said the 15-year-old, also from Wellington.

The Cheema crew was selected after beating out several other boats from across the country at a race last August in Welland, Ont.

Jon Pike, the crew's coach and the boat's coxswain, said war canoes are uniquely Canadian and is proud his crew won the opportunity to showcase it on the world stage.

"We know we've got a pretty awesome thing," said Pike, just after steering the boat with the crew for the first time. "It will be awesome to show the world... what we have."

Robert Fraser, a local craftsman from Dartmouth, N.S., said building the boat was a challenge, as it was the 67-year-old's first time constructing a war canoe. He says it was hand-built without using any plans or moulds.

"Just like the athletes, this was a dream to me," said Fraser, who has been building boats since he was a boy.

The boat took three and a half months to construct and is built from 9 metre-long sheets of cedar from British Columbia, said Fraser.

The club has been fundraising for the trip since winning the race.

Several Olympians are former Cheema paddlers including Karen Furneaux and Jillian D'Allessio, a Canoe Kayak Canada press release said.

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