It took a full two days to get from Canada to Union de Tula. I drove from Whistler Friday evening to get on a plane going from Vancouver to Puerto Vallarta on Saturday morning. We had to wait for a police escort to take us through the winding Mexican mountain roads to reach Union de Tula Sunday evening. I think all of us on the team were feeling nervous from all the security and unsure of what to expect of the river.
Though the town of Union de Tula is very small we were warmly greeted with the most impressive opening ceremonies I have ever attended. The streets were filled with thousands of cheering locals. We were swarmed by kids asking for autographs and pictures which is an experience you just don’t get in kayaking. The medal ceremonies and closing banquet were equally spectacular. I was very impressed with the organization of the race and the work of the volunteers, especially for a town that had never held a race of that scale before.
Canada had an impressive showing at this year’s Pan-Ams. Out of the five gold medals to be won, Canada took home three with the United States claiming the remaining two. Jessica Groeneveld of Alberta took home two gold’s from the disciplines of K1 Women and C1 Women. The Purcell Brothers, also from Alberta took home the gold in the C2 class. I took home a Silver medal in the K1 class. It feels great to start the new year off with a podium finish. Though it is not the gold I was hoping for I am happy with how I raced and I am looking forward to the next races to come in New Zealand and Australia.
The new Mexican course is proving to be a great training site. Apart from some problems with the gate system collapsing, the river is very good to paddle on. I think this will turn into a frequent winter training site for Canadians as it is warm year round and reasonably cheap to get to. After the experience I had in Mexico, I am eager to come back next year for more great racing.