It didn’t take Jessica Groeneveld long to become the top women on the Canadian national kayak team in the K1 division.
Despite being only in her second year with the national program the 20-year-old native of Innisfail displaced Sarah Boudens of Pembrooke, Ont., as the No. 1 ranked Canadian at the national team trials in Ottawa. In fact she was first named to the Canadian team in April 2008 and made an immediate impression, finishing second to Boudens in the Olympic trials and second in the Pan American final.
Last weekend Groeneveld won the Pan Am title in the whitewater slalom event in Kananaskis. But it was far from easy.
She just made the top-10 in the semifinals, which earned her a spot in the final. Then it was ruled she touched a gate during the final, which resulted in a penalty, leaving her fourth.
“We protested and it went our way and I was moved into first,” she explained in a telephone interview from Whistler, B.C., where she’s preparing to compete in the B.C. championships.
The Pan Am competition was tough with less than two seconds difference between the top four competitors.
Groeneveld, who grew up in Innisfail and learned her trade with the Innisfail Cottonwood Kayak Club, spent part of last year training in B.C. but moved to Calgary in September to train with high performance coach Mike Holroyd.
“Every province has a high performance coach and for him to maintain that position he has to work with members of the national team,” explained Groeneveld. “And it’s worked out for me.
“I’m going in the direction I want. I trained hard this year and I’ve seen huge improvements in my physical fitness and techniques,” she said. “As well I’ve gained a lot of experience.”
Groeneveld trains at Kananaskis and on the Bow River during the summer and works indoors during the winter. She also spent three weeks in Mexico last winter.
While Groeneveld is No. 1 in Canada, she’s still a step behind on the World Cup circuit. She just finished three World Cup events, placing in the 30s.
“But my world ranking went up from last year,” she said. “The competition in Europe is tough. The athletes from Germany, Slovakia and the Czech Republic are very strong. They’re older and more experienced and are able to train on artificial courses year round. That’s something we don’t have a lot of.”
Groeneveld will get an opportunity to compete on a man-made course this week in Whistler, which should be a benefit as she prepares for the World championships in Spain in early September.
“That’s something I’m looking forward to,” she said.
Last year, because of the Olympics in China, there were no world finals.
And while the World Championships are a highlight of the season, it’s 2012 and the Olympic Games in London, England, that has Groeneveld’s attention.
“You can’t look too far ahead but I’m headed in the right direction. I just have to keep going and improving,” she concluded.