Freestyle kayaker Kaar headed for World Championships

Rowan Kaar from Hazelbrook is off to the world championships in the U.S later this year and he couldn’t be happier.

The 15-year-old freestyle kayaker took out the Junior Freestyle Kayaking National Competition at Penrith’s Whitewater Stadium on Saturday after taking up the sport in 2009.

Kaar trains every Saturday — and more regularly during the holidays —in the sport, a cross between whitewater kayaking and gymnastics.

Freestyle kayaking was a demonstrator sport at the recent London Olympics, which according to an Australian Freestyle Kayaking Committee spokesman “is growing fast”. 

During his two 45 second stints in the water on Saturday, women’s world freestyle champion Claire O’Hara, from England, judged Kaar the best in his field for cartwheels, spins and aerial loops. 

He will now compete on the Nantahala River in North Carolina in September.

Kaar will be up against the best junior kayakers in the world. The current reigning champ is 16-year-old Hunter Katich from Alabama in America. 

Mum, Kim Kaar, said her son was excited and nervous about heading overseas for the first time and she “is nervous for him”.

“It’s a big thing he’s only 15, we’re really excited for him that he’s got this opportunity”, she said.

“This is his thing,” his dad, Andrew added, “we’re thrilled for him”. 

Kaar became involved in the sport through the Duke of Edinburgh program and after his sister Emily, now 20, got involved. Both parents also kayak.

Second and third place junior men’s champions were Brad Elliot-Bool of Canberra and Penrith’s Luke Callaghan. Alex Broome, also from Penrith took out first place in the junior women’s, with certificates of achievement awarded to Gilbert Coombes from Hazelbrook, Penrith’s Ciaren Kelly and Mitch Taylor from Glenbrook.

Coombes has regularly placed in the top five spot at national events and has a berth in the world championships alongside Kaar and Elliot-Bool, after Callaghan elected not to go.

An Australian Freestyle Kayaking Committee spokesman said they would have a team of nine at this year’s world championship — five K1 (kayak) seniors, a C1 (canoe) mens and three juniors — up from only two from last year.

The spokesman said the aim of every freestyle event was to increase the sport’s profile and hopefully be included as competitors at the 2020 Olympic Games.

World champion Claire O’Hara, 31, has been training and coaching at Penrith over summer and said it was a “fantastic venue for freestyle kayaking”. 

Penrith runs a junior development program where world-class coaching has catapulted several talented local youngsters into high rankings in national and world competitions, parent spokeswoman, Cindy Mann said. 

“We’ve got this fabulous facility ... the area is top heavy with classy kayakers,” said Mann, whose son Tim, 19,  will compete as a senior at the world championships.

The group is currently searching for juniors who are confident in the water and possibly have gymnastics experience with a view to eventually competing at  an Olympics.  

At the Freestyle Kayak World Cup held on the Nantahala river in North Carolina last year Joe Dunne, 18, from Leura,  took out seventh place  in the junior class. 

He trained throughout winter on Wentworth Falls Lake in the lead-up to the event. 

If you are interested in trying out freestyle kayaking email the committee at freestyle@canoe.org.au.

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