Kiwi Kayaker Mike Dawson Paddles For Gold in London
Mike Dawson grew up following his older brother to kayak competitions around their home of Tauranga, on the North Island of New Zealand. He started competing at the age of 13 and within three years was competing in world championship events. Now 25, he's in the midst of the London Olympics-on Sunday, he qualified for Wednesday's kayak slalom semi-finals. We caught up with Dawson before the Olympics to chat about training, his favorite foods, and why fun is the essence of his sport.
What did you do to prepare for the Olympics?
I did all the worlds competitions in Wales, France, and Spain. I find I perform better when I'm always competing and staying on top of my game. Of course, you don't want to get tired out, but I ended up doing four races before the games.
Aside from paddling, how do you train?
I do a lot of weight training to build strength because kayaking is a power sport. I do mostly upper-body lifting like bench presses, pull-ups, power cleans, and a lot of ab work. Then my coach and I try to turn the strength into power and the power into endurance. I hate it, but you have to do it and work hard in the off-season and put your body through some pain to make the season a little easier.
How do you keep it fresh and avoid burnout?
I box, run, and ski, all of which use similar muscle groups to kayaking and help me relax while I'm training. I'm trying to replicate my form from last year when I qualified for the Olympics by finishing 16th at World Championships in Bratislava. Obviously, the time in the water is fun too, so I train a lot on the river with Czechoslovakian paddler Vavra Hradilek (who finished third overall in qualifying in London). We work on getting out of the start gate and technique. The goal is to have everything feel second nature when you get to the games.
What are your favorite foods to fuel your workouts?
I try to follow a strict diet without getting to anal about it. I eat what I enjoy eating. Stick with bananas and bread and foods that won't upset my stomach. I like the energy gels for before and during competition and training. My favorite is gel is called Leppin, which is a small New Zealand brand. I feel like it's made with the love and passion of my homeland.
Do you have any competition superstitions?
I never spit in the water. I don't know why. I guess I feel like I'm one with the water so it feels wrong to spit in it. It sounds weird but it's just one of things.
Tell us a little about the history of kayaking in the Olympics.
It first started as an Olympic sport in 1972, however it was dropped right away because the courses were expensive to design and build. It came back in 1992 and there are boaters competing in this Olympics that have been in since Barcelona. So the competitors keep coming back.
So it's possible to compete for a long time in kayaking?
Yeah, some guys burn out by 25 and some are just hitting their prime. It's such a technical sport and there are so many aspects to master that it's possible for people to compete well into their 40s. Canadian paddler Dave Ford competed until he was 45.
Want to try an extreme workout? Here are five workouts better than yours.
Interview by Fitbie senior editor Dave L'Heureux.
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