Grafton kayaker makes Aussie squad
FORMER Grafton kayaker William Smidt has gone from ‘crash test dummy’ to Australian representative after he was spotted testing the course for his father at the World Cup in Tasmania earlier this year.
Smidt, 16, spent his early years in Grafton and was schooled at The Cathedral School, before his family left for the Tweed area. He now lives in Armidale.
The fledgling paddler maintains close links with Grafton through his mentor, six-time Australian champion Steve Muir, whose business Grafton Paddle Sports, supplies Smidt with his kayak gear.
Smidt was doing a run for his father, Chris, a four-time National representative, on the Cataract Gorge course when he caught the eye of an Australian selector.
On the strength of the selector’s recommendation Smidt has jumped the queue for selection in the B development squad that will travel to Dunedin in New Zealand next Easter.
“Selections for the squad would normally happen after the nationals in Victoria in January,” Smidt said.
“They heard about my results as well as what I was doing on the river and told me I was in the squad.”
Smidt favours whitewater kayaking with the K-1 discipline his favourite event. However, he also competed successfully in C-1 and C-2 (canoes) and surprisingly also picked up three gold medals in flat water kayaking at the State titles in May.
Smidt learnt his sport on the whitewater at Nymboida, a course he rates as highly as any when the conditions are right.
However, he said Australian rain-fed courses suffer in comparison with courses in Europe, Canada and New Zealand which gain their water from melting snow.
He believes this gives Australian competitors some advantages.
“Australian kayakers will look at something the Europeans would think was too big and just jump in and give it a go,” he said.
He said his selection in the development squad has boosted his confidence leading up to the National titles next month.