Elite American Kayakers Vie For Olympic Gold (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Elite American Kayakers Vie For Olympic Gold

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:09
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and as that April 17th tax deadline looms large this week, we're saving and spending. Earlier in the hour, we focused on saving with a story about students who've been scraping together their pennies to live out a long-held dream of journeying to D.C. Well, this next story is also about following a dream of traveling somewhere special and the amount of time you need to spend to make that dream a reality. In this case, the dreamed of place is London, England, site of the 2012 Olympic Games and I recently met two young athletes...

MS. CAROLINE QUEEN

00:00:41
Caroline Queen.

SHEIR

00:00:42
...and...

MS. ASHLEY NEE

00:00:42
Ashley Nee.

SHEIR

00:00:43
...who hope to represent the U.S. at those games in a very particular sport.

QUEEN

00:00:47
White water slalom kayaking.

NEE

00:00:49
White water slalom kayaking.

SHEIR

00:00:49
White water slalom kayaking is like everyday kayaking only, you know, different since with slalom you navigate through a course of hanging gates as fast as you can on sometimes raging river rapids. Caroline Queen spoke with me from a studio in North Caroline where she currently lives. I met Ashley Nee near her house in Brookmont, Maryland right by the Potomac River and as I talked with these two I came to learn they share a lot more than just a passion for paddling.

SHEIR

00:01:15
They're both in their 20s.

NEE

00:01:17
I'm 22 years old.

QUEEN

00:01:18
I'm actually 20.

SHEIR

00:01:20
They hail from the same town.

QUEEN

00:01:21
Darnestown, Maryland.

NEE

00:01:21
Darnestown, Maryland.

QUEEN

00:01:22
About 30 minutes north of Washington.

SHEIR

00:01:24
They learned to kayak in the same place.

QUEEN

00:01:26
Ashley and I started at the same summer camp in Darnestown called Valley Mill Camp.

NEE

00:01:31
She was a couple years younger than me, came a couple years after me and just started chasing me down.

SHEIR

00:01:35
They even look alike.

NEE

00:01:36
We're both blonde haired, blue-eyed and short. So we got mixed up a lot.

QUEEN

00:01:40
That is true.

SHEIR

00:01:41
But something else they have in common, says Ashley, is friendship.

NEE

00:01:45
We're like sisters.

SHEIR

00:01:46
And Caroline says the way she admires Ashley...

QUEEN

00:01:49
She's been a role model for me since I started.

SHEIR

00:01:52
She looks at her as an older sister and when Ashley thinks about Caroline...

NEE

00:01:56
I look at her as a younger sister.

SHEIR

00:01:57
Which is pretty remarkable, you could say, given that these slalom kayakers share just one more little thing.

NEE

00:02:03
We've been one and two in the sport for a long time.

SHEIR

00:02:06
They're long-time rivals.

QUEEN

00:02:08
So at Olympic trials, most likely we'll be one and two. We have been for the last couple of years.

SHEIR

00:02:15
As Ashley explains, Caroline's the one who earned a spot or birth for U.S. Women's Kayaking at this year's Olympics, thanks to her performance in the first of three qualifying races for the Olympics, the World Championships.

QUEEN

00:02:27
It was in Bratislava, Slovakia past September. It was a really huge event.

SHEIR

00:02:31
With each of these three qualifying races, you earn points and in gaining the Olympic Birth, Caroline pulled ahead of Ashley. Now the women are gearing up for the second qualifying event to be held in North Caroline later this month, Olympic Team Trials.

NEE

00:02:44
Where I'll have to be top two to even think about racing at the World Cup.

SHEIR

00:02:49
That's the third qualifying event which will happen in June.

NEE

00:02:52
And that World Cup in Cardiff, England I have to be top 20 and beat her and I've never been top 20. I've been 23rd, top 30 a couple of times.

SHEIR

00:03:05
But not too long ago, Ashley could've been on her way to being on top of the world at the Olympics, the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

NEE

00:03:12
Because I qualified the birth in 2007, but tore apart my shoulder. Didn't get shoulder surgery, needed it and then trained on it, missed the team at Olympic Trials. I was fourth and at the time, you had to be top three.

SHEIR

00:03:25
Caroline actually got third, though she didn't make it to the Olympic Games. As for Ashley, she eventually got surgery, did about two years of rehab and now she spends countless hours on the Potomac.

SHEIR

00:03:36
You just zip around in that thing.

NEE

00:03:38
Yes.

SHEIR

00:03:38
Paddling like a pro. In this case, on her usual practice course on the feeder canal right near loch 6 of the C&O Canal.

MR. SILVAN POBERAJ

00:03:46
To me, it's like, for kayakers, this is probably one the best places in the states.

SHEIR

00:03:50
Silvan Poberaj coaches the U.S. National Whitewater Kayak team. He hails from the kayak crazy nation of Slovenia, but has been smitten with the Potomac since moving to this area in the mid 1990s.

POBERAJ

00:04:00
It has really nice rapids. It's very good and especially the location going through a town like Washington it's something very unique.

SHEIR

00:04:07
Silvan has trained both Ashley Nee and Caroline Queen for years, but if you ask which he thinks might go to the Olympics...

SHEIR

00:04:13
Would you actually say who you think would win?

SHEIR

00:04:17
He's pretty noncommittal.

POBERAJ

00:04:17
I don't know.

SHEIR

00:04:19
Though he does say we probably won't know anything until that third qualifying race in June.

SHEIR

00:04:23
Really?

POBERAJ

00:04:24
Yes, I think they are close enough and the way the selections are going, unless something really unusual happens at the Team Trials. Then I think it's going to go to the World Cup in Cardiff.

SHEIR

00:04:35
In the meantime, both Ashley Nee and Caroline Queen are training hard, the former here in Maryland and the latter down in North Carolina. Caroline says it will be tough to face each other at the upcoming Olympic Trials.

QUEEN

00:04:47
It's a rivalry in the sense that we both want to be number one.

SHEIR

00:04:50
But if nothing else, it'll strengthen their friendship and their skills.

QUEEN

00:04:54
It's a very positive thing, you know, we push each other.

NEE

00:04:57
And ideally, this year, we're pushing each other to get to that next level, to be able to compete with those international crew.

SHEIR

00:05:03
In fact, says Ashley Nee, as they spend countless hours paddling at practice sessions and races...

NEE

00:05:09
Ideally we're training each other for the Games.

SHEIR

00:05:11
Consider it one more thing these two friends share, just the latest item in an ever-growing, ever-flowing list.

SHEIR

00:05:23
The 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Whitewater Slalom take place April 12th through the 14th in Charlotte, NC. You can learn more about the Trials as well as the World Cup, Olympic Games and the overall sport of whitewater slalom kayaking on our website, metroconnection.org. You also can find the link to Caroline Queen's blog and her YouTube site and I am telling you, her St. Patrick's Day race through green water in Charlotte, not to be missed.
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