The Two Jacksons: What Happened to U.S. Slalom Racing?

The United States has too many good rivers!

Over the last week I’ve had the chance to watch some of the world’s best young paddlers. The International Canoe Federation makes it absurdly easy to watch video of the Junior World Championships in Whitewater Slalom almost as it’s happening.  Watching these teenagers whip their short boats around, switch hands with their canoe paddles, and finish in under 90 seconds sometimes makes me think I’m watching a different — and far more exciting — sport than the one I “retired” from eight years ago.  I must’ve watched four hours of coverage.  It was great — mostly.

The only thing wrong was that the United States didn’t do very well.  In fact, we were shut out of the medals in both the Under-23 class and in the younger Junior class in all five disciplines.  In several of the most competitive classes — such as men’s kayak — we didn’t even qualify a single boat for the finals.  In other classes — such as C-2 — we didn’t field a single boat in the entire race.  Meanwhile, countries that are a fraction of the size of the U.S. — such as Slovakia or Slovenia — put many more times our number into the race, into the finals, and onto the podium.  What gives?

Read: The Two Jacksons – What Happened to Slalom Racing in the United States?