The United States national rafting team, composed of: John Mark Seelig (captain and back left), Seth Mason (back right), Matt Norfleet (middle left), Kurt Kincel (middle right), Rob Prechtl (front left), Jeremiah Williams (front right), will compete this year at the R6 World Rafting Championship, Indonesia in the Men’s Open category. They will be fighting for a medal in the Sprint, H2H, Slalom, Downriver and in the Overall ranking against 20 other countries from around the world. This is the most difficult of all categories, where a hundredth of a second decides the winners. Not at all an easy task ahead of them. But we like that extra adrenaline before the whistle for the start.
Some of these guys whom we have seen in other teams, are now gathered in “9Ball”, and that’s why we contacted John M.S. to tell us something about this new crew and their plans for Indonesia.
“The team is actually a somewhat new team.” – explains John – “Only 3 of us have raced internationally and one took a year off. We have 3 young guys that have never paddled on the world stage. They are incredible athletes in other paddling disciplines but paddling with 5 other guys brings another challenge. We did not think we would win Nationals this year. The main competing team was stacked with multiple experienced racers. We approached the national race with ease and no expectations. We thought it would be a good experience and next year we would make the real push for a national title. Our skill was definitely lacking while our fitness won the Nationals race. We were just the fitter team! It’s that simple.”
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What does your team do to prepare for the competition? – “We have approached this race differently. We have spent more time in the gym than other years. The gym is usually easier to control with injuries and we can focus specifically on fitness. This gives us the chance to work on technique, timing and skill once we are in the boat. It seemed to work well at our nationals race. We don’t think there will be any teams that are fitter than us. Most teams will have more experience.”
You will not have had a chance to compete against any of the other teams you will be facing at the WRC, so how do you prepare for this? – “We have a pretty good idea of the skill level of the top 5-6 teams. Those teams have spent so much time in the boat. Their timing with each crew member is dialled. We have always admired the aggression, risk and passion of the Brazilians. We love the precision of the Japanese. The slalom skill of the Czechs continue to amaze us too! We learn from each team.”
Is there a discipline in which you feel you could achieve a medal? – “We have been practising the most on slalom because that is always our weakest event and we have so many new paddlers. We truly want Gold in Sprint and Head to Head. We have a good chance to do that…I think. We need to be realistic about slalom and try to be in the top 10. Our endurance and fitness is really good this year, but we haven’t had many downriver practices because we needed to work on slalom.”
Will you be able to get to Indonesia earlier to prepare? – “We are not able to come very early this year. The practice format allowed us to come a little later, since there is practice days between each race.”
Which country do you think will be your biggest competition? – “Sprint, anyone could have a good race. Head to Head, Brazil is always a tough opponent. When it comes to slalom, Japan, Czech and Brazil will be way ahead of us. I think there will be a large field of teams battling for 5-10th place.”
Is there anything that your team particularly wants to see or experience in Indonesia? – “We are all travelling to Bali after the races for some relaxation and sun. We will be returning to snow, skiing and freezing temperatures when we get back.”
Since training before a WRC tends to be exhausting, sometimes with tension in the boat, how do you relax after training? – “We are all big fans of yoga for recovery, but we all mountain bike, ski, and play in the mountains outside when we are not in the boat!”
What does participating in the WRC mean to you besides the opportunity to represent the colours of your country? – “I love meeting everyone from other countries! Rivers are a bond that transcend countries and origins! We all love moving water and competition is just another way to experience it!”
Are there sponsors that you would like to thank? – “Chaco, GOAT Training, Backcountry.com, Steadman Clinic, Lakota Guides, Hydrus”
Once again a fantastic Team USA is coming to the WRC this year, that’s for sure. I can not wait to see how their tactics will work this year. As I said, this is the toughest category and they are quite in place with their forecasts and plans. But surprises are always there… Also, I really like the new/old crew setting. We know that, in some ways, it is easier to overcome a Class 5 river than to persevere in this difficult sport. So I primarily wish them to persevere over all obstacles and to last for many, many years. And of course, we wish them a good stroke at the WRC.
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