By David Sali –
Kitchissippi sprint kayaker Maren Bradley usually favours 1,000-metre races over 500-metre events, but that might change if she keeps getting results like the one she and her teammates achieved at the recent junior world championships.
Appearing in her second straight worlds, Bradley was part of Canada’s women’s K4 (four-person kayaking) crew that captured the country’s first-ever junior world championship medal in the 500-metre distance at the event in Pitesti, Romania, in early August.
Bradley and her teammates took home the bronze, finishing behind perennial paddling powerhouses Hungary and Germany. Their third-place result also helped Canada wind up second in the overall medal standings, ahead of Germany.
“I knew we had a pretty powerful crew, so I was kind of going into that hoping for the best and knowing that we could really show other countries what we’re there for,” said the recent graduate of Nepean High School, who is heading to Dalhousie University in Halifax to study commerce this fall. “We worked really hard for it, and I think we showed what we could do.”
Bradley, 17, didn’t have much time to rest following her triumph in Romania. Just a couple of weeks later, she was in Regina to take part in the Canadian sprint canoe kayak championships in late August.
Bradley made the most of her trip out west, earning six golds, a silver and a bronze while making it to the podium in every race she entered. Bradley’s bronze in the under-18 women’s individual 1,000-metre canoe final on windy Wascana Lake came despite her not having much practice time at that distance under her belt.
“It was my first thousand-metre race of the year, actually,” she said with a laugh during a phone interview from Regina the day after the Aug. 27 race. “I hadn’t been training it when I was at worlds, but it went pretty well. I’m really happy with it.”
The result probably shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Bradley, who fell in love with the sport after joining the Rideau Canoe Club’s summer camp for kids at age six, says she normally favours racing the 1,000 over the 500.
“It’s easier to make a pace and be consistent,” she explains. “It’s fun.”
Bradley didn’t have much down time after the nationals, either. Almost immediately after the competition ended, she flew to Halifax to start preparing for her first year at Dalhousie. She’ll also begin training at Dartmouth’s Mic Mac Amateur Aquatic Club under the tutelage of head coach Chris Chaisson, who also oversaw the women’s team at the world juniors.
Still, she says she’ll never forget where she came from. Bradley is quick to credit her coaches at the Rideau club, Andres Carranco and Reid Farquharson, as well as her teammates for helping mould her into the powerful paddler she’s become.
“The Rideau Canoe Club has an amazing team,” she said. “My coaches and especially my training partners, we’re all super close, and I don’t think I would have been able to get anywhere without them.”
Fresh off her success at the worlds and nationals, Bradley has even loftier long-term ambitions to shoot for. Her objective is to one day paddle for Canada at the Olympics, with her first real opportunity to wear the Maple Leaf on that stage likely being the 2024 Games in Paris.
But she knows she’s got a lot of miles to put in before that can happen. Bradley, who stands 5-foot-9 and weighs a solid 155 pounds, says she needs to up her mental game and add more muscle to her frame.
“I really need to work on staying focused before all my races and also in the off-season not getting too distracted. If you watch all the Hungarians and all the Germans, all the women are massive. I’m going to have to get quite a bit stronger to be at that level.”
*This feature is brought to you in part by Back on Track Physiotherapy and Health Centres.