Darius Ramrattan of Innisfail competes at the 2013 Nationals on the Kananaskis River

Paddling for the podium

Darius Ramrattan did not get the results he wanted out of his first trip to worlds but he did learn some valuable lessons.

Darius Ramrattan did not get the results he wanted out of his first trip to worlds but he did learn some valuable lessons.

The Innisfail kayker finished 71st overall at the 2015 ICF World Championships in Foz Do Iguasso, Brazil last month.

It was his first taste of international competition but it will not be his last.

“After Brazil, I reset my goal for next year’s worlds in Kraków, Poland,” said Ramrattan. “I want to make semifinals.”

This season is setting up to be a big one for the 17-year-old Notre Dame student.

He made the junior national team this summer as one of the top three male kayakers under 18 in the country.

However he has yet to medal at nationals at the junior level after dominating the cadet age group (14 and under) for three years.

The junior age group is expansive, covering 15-18 year olds and the difference in those ages are huge. Now that he’s one of the older kayakers in the junior division, he has high expectations for this year’s national championship in Chilliwack, B.C. in July.

“I’m aiming for podium at nationals … there’s definitely some fast people that didn’t make the junior national team, but I think it’s definitely an achievable goal,” said Ramrattan.

His experience in Brazil will play a big role in his development this year.

In kayaking, competitors travel in a one-man craft through a slalom style course on a river. They must weave around gates, collecting penalties for every gate they hit.

The 400-metre, 23-gate course on the Itaigo Canal — a 10-hour drive inland from Sao Paulo, Brazil — was not overly difficult, but he got caught up in the atmosphere and being surrounded by some of the best in his sport. His goal was to finish in the top 40 to advance to the semifinals, but he finished well back with a best time of 117.30 seconds, which included 10 seconds in penalties.

“It was definitely an off day, I needed to work a little bit more on the mental aspect and being more prepared for the pressure,” said Ramrattan. “Just sitting the start gate, thinking, ‘Wow, this is worlds, 10 seconds until I go …’ it’s a crazy surreal experience.”

To help deal with the mental side of the equation he works with a sports psychiatrist set up through the Alberta Sports Development Centre.

“We were making process, but I was not quite ready for worlds,” said Ramrattan.

“My biggest challenge is executing my race plan. I can make a great plan on how to do it … but I need to work on how to apply my skills to that and make a plan that I can execute.”

The trip to Brazil also allowed him to get as close to his father’s native home in Guyana as he has ever been. The three-week trip served as a wider life experience and an opportunity to see a part of the world most of his peers never will and he may never see again.

“The coach for the first week was really relaxed and let us go sight-seeing,” said Ramrattan, who was born in Peace River and has lived in Innisfail since he was in Grade 3. “He was big into us experiencing the Brazilian culture … he wanted us to soak up as much as we could.”

He trains hard for the sport, out at a friend’s pond a couple of times during the week and then makes trips to a training centre in Kananaskis where he works with his coaches Mike Holroyd and Paul Manning-Hunter. This summer he plans to spend most of his time off from school in Kananaskis while preparing for the junior nationals in Chilliwack in July.

When he’s not in the water the six-foot-three, 185-pounder can be found playing soccer or competing in track and field.

He is also focused on a career outside of kayaking, hoping to get into medicine at some level. The lessons he is learning on a river will help him in that pursuit.

“It’s really good to be able to apply the dedication and discipline from my training sessions to school and studying,” said Ramrattan. “I’m hoping that will be a clean transition, replacing school with sport.”

jaldrich@bprda.wpengine.com

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