Last year’s U19 Women’s champions on WRC2015

The Australian U19 Women, who are the R4 World Champions, are ready for the R6 challenge.

“The team that deserves a big mention is the new U19 Women’s R4 World Rafting Champions – Australia. This team managed to keep Brazil from making it a clean sweep of the top podium position. They’ve had a hard journey to get here, not only the time and distance to travel here but also in the battle to secure the funding and the support which they have proven they definitely deserve”International Rafting Federation, summing up WRC 2014.

Yes, that is what we wrote about them after their remarkable success at the R4 WRCin Brazil 2014. They won their nationals again this year and the ability to represent the colours of their country in Indonesia at the R6 WRC. So we contacted the Aussie girls to see how their preparations are going, who is in the team, what their goals are this time and their impressions of the R4 WRC in Brazil. We spoke to Cathy, their manager.

Oz smilesCathy, any change in your team in relation to Brazil?

“The R6 team includes Lucy (front R), Steph  (front L) and Carina (back R) from our World Champion R4 team. New kids on the block are Madison (middle L), Gabriella (back L) and Layla (middle R). The new girls are all pretty tough as soccer and hockey players and have heaps of water experience so they have easily made the transformation to rafting.”

What are you preparations for this competition?

“Recently the hydro electricity power station on our river closed for repairs for one month, and so, as it is not the wet season in North Queensland, we had no white water for one month. In our part of Australia the river is very dry at this time of year. We have been using outrigging canoeing for some cross training and recently competed in an open water marathon event between Cairns and Port Douglas. We are training 3 times a  week on the river and also fit in a few gym sessions. We don’t have a technical slalom course where we live so we have to keep putting up ropes across the river and then we take them down again.” – that’s extra hard work for you!

How hard is it to harmonise obligations between school and preparations for the competition? Do you still find time to hang out?​

“Our life is school, work and RAFTING! It has been a massive commitment for us as we completing our final year of high school and completing all the university entry requirements for Queensland (our state of Australia). We are all very focused on school as we all want careers as dentists, engineers, scientists, and in business management. A very big advantage for us is the river as it is so close to our schools and homes so we can be on the river within 20 minutes of finishing school. The week before we arrive in Indonesia we all have our senior high school graduations –  it will be nice to dress up and wear heels and make-up instead of helmets and jackets for a change.”

Oz stuck on a rock (1)The WRC is very close to you now, will you have the opportunity to come earlier to prepare?

“Because we have study and graduation commitments right through November we will arrive a couple of days prior to the official training days to get used to the water and food and the river. It is only a 4 hour time difference for us, so we won’t have the same jet-lag problems we had in Brazil.”

The success that you achieved in Brazil was fantastic, does the title of R4 World Champions in the U19 Women’s category create some pressure now? We know that R4 and R6, though they look the same, are two different things. What are your expectations from this competition?​ 

Oz getting off the rock (1)When we returned to our hometown Cairns, the whole city was celebrating our win. Brazil was an amazing experience for us, and we know we achieved our success because we had worked very hard, and we were so lucky to have such a great coach. He mentored us every day in Brazil until we achieved our goals. We were these 5 teenage girls from a small town in northern Australia who had never seen an artificial canal. The river in Brazil was so scary when we first saw it – 3 times as wide than anything we’d ever experienced, and it was so very deep. After finishing strongly in the Head to Head and after that downriver event, we knew that with hard work and commitment we could do anything! The R4 is very different to the R6 event. The only pressure we feel is from ourselves, as we want to make sure that we do the very best we can. We are all over achievers! We have lots of ideas about what we need to do, and if you ask our coach, he’ll tell you we all talk too much. Moving and turning the larger R6 boat through the rapids, especially in the slalom is really difficult. Achieving perfect timing is also a lot harder with 6 than with 4. It hasn’t been easy, especially balancing all of our busy lives. We’ve been very lucky that a lot of local businesses have sponsored us, so this time we haven’t had to be out cooking sausages to raise money every weekend as well as school and work and training.”

Oz aus19wIs there something in particular you want to experience and see in Indonesia?

“We are really looking forward to the competition, but the most important thing for us will be having the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people from all over the world, and experience another culture. Its going to be so much fun! Brazil taught us what a great international community is involved in rafting.  Because of social media (and thanks to Google translator), we have been able to stay in contact with so many people that we met even though our Portuguese is still not very good.

We really enjoy reading all the stories and following our competitors on Facebook and Twitter. We all look forward to learning about the local area and trying the food. Our focus will be the competition. When it’s all over we are so keen to catch up properly with all our friends and we were really sorry to hear that the U19 Argentina teams won’t be there. We are also really keen to surf in the Indian Ocean!

Our major sponsor is a local rafting company Raging Thunder and so that is why we call our team Downunder Thunder 

Thanks Cathy for chatting to us and we look forward to watching the girls in action once again!

Yes, the WRC is all that they have said and specifically the friendships that we make at them. Old friends are not forgotten, just waiting for some new adventures so as to be renewed. Thanks to everyone who have stood behind these wonderful girls and greatly facilitated their being able to attend this year’s WRC. A new adventure, this time in R6, certainly is a big change and challenge, but their commitment, dedication and perseverance are commendable. We wish them all good strokes!