Athletes and the mayor try OKC RIVERSPORT ahead of Olympic trials

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Almost a week before the Olympic trials at RIVERSPORT OKC, the mayor and several world-renowned athletes took the track for a spin on Thursday.

On April 26 and 27, there will be 50 to 100 athletes from across the nation competing for the chance to participate in the Paris games come July.

| READ MORE > RIVERSPORT to host U.S. Olympic team trials >

“It’s one of my favorite courses in the U.S.,” said Zachary Lokken. Lokken said that he placed seventh during the Tokyo Olympic games. Of course, he’s going for gold if he can make it to Paris.

“I’m a canoe slalom, my category is canoe. That’s different from kayak/canoe. We sit on our knees with one blade and kayak. They sit on their boat with their legs in front of them and they’ve got two blades,” said Lokken.

Saturday is said to be the best time to watch the competition and it is free to view. There are other admission prices for prime viewing and VIP Hospitality.

“I hope I survive,” said the mayor just before jumping in a kayak and paddling downstream.

On Thursday, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt showed up to race one time through the track. All along it were the gates, two connected poles the athletes had to pass through without touching.

The mayor touched maybe one out of the over 20 poles and said to have done pretty well.

“My main focus this time is to get in that final two and I think that could have been achieved the last time when I was in Tokyo,” said Lokken.

| READ MORE > RIVERSPORT OKC prepares for Olympic trials >

Before you go there are some simple rules with the races. “Canoe/Kayak” designates the two types of boats used in their respective events. Athletes kneel in a canoe and use a single-bladed paddle. Kayakers sit in their boats and use a double-bladed paddle.

Then there is Slalom racing which takes paddlers down the channels through a series of gates; green gates are downstream and red gates require the athlete to paddle upstream. Athletes lose two seconds off of their final time if they touch one of the gates. If they miss the gates altogether then 50 seconds are taken off of their time.

Kayak Cross is new to the Olympic Games and will debut in Paris. Athletes launch their boats from a platform 10 feet above the water, side-by-side with three other competitors. They splash into the water and jostle for position down the channel as they paddle through gates and complete a 360-degree roll. Unlike other paddlesports, contact is allowed.

Saturday starting at 9 a.m. are the Canoe/Slalom Finals which go through until 1:30 p.m. Then from 4:30 p.m. through 7 p.m. there is the Kayak Cross Competition and Finals.

The top athletes will then represent the United States in Paris this summer.

The hope is these trials will show Oklahomans what a special sport kayaking is and help it grow in popularity.

It doesn’t stop there, from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. is live music featuring the Jeremy Rowe Band, a Team USA announcement planned for 8:15 p.m., and ending with fireworks.

When asked what Lokken would say to anyone who dreams of becoming an Olympian, “There’s no end to your dream. You can achieve it whenever you want. It may take time and it can be a hard journey. You might have a lot of downfalls that may make you want to quit, but you just have to keep fighting for what you want and don’t let anybody else get in the way of that.”

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