To be the best, you have to beat the best — and that’s a work in progress for Lyall Hatton and Connor Taras.
The local kayak duo is desperately chasing a spot at August’s world sprint canoe-kayak championships, a quest that continued yesterday on Lake Banook in Dartmouth at the second-to-last set of national team selection trials.
Hatton, a 19-year-old from Bedford, and Taras, a 20-year-old from Waverley, are the young guns trying to unseat two-time Olympians Andrew Willows, Richard Dober Jr., and Steven Jorens. It’s not easy being the new kids on the block.
“Just how close we are right now is a huge achievement,” said Hatton, after he and Taras finished second to Willows and Dober in the K-2 500 metres. “We were neck-and-neck, back-and-forth. Those are the guys we have to beat. If we can keep up with them, even beat them, we’re sitting pretty.”
With yesterday’s win, Willows and Dober clinched a spot at worlds in the K-2 500. That means Hatton and Taras are down to their last chance to qualify for worlds at next month’s final set of selection trials in Montreal. And they’ll have to beat Dober and Jorens twice in the K-2 1,000 to do it.
“Those guys are so fast off the line,” Hatton said. “They always get a half-boat length off the line at the start. It’s going to take a lot of training to catch them, but we’re almost there.”
Hatton and Taras debuted on the senior team last year after winning silver together at the 2007 junior world championships. Training with accomplished athletes more than seven years their senior has been a learning experience.
“They’re just brutal (in training),” marvelled Hatton. “They just keep on hammering it. They go so quick.”
Regardless of whether Hatton and Taras are on Lake Banook for worlds, it may only be a matter of time before they start making their presence felt internationally.
“Those two guys are awesome,” Willows said. “They have a great future ahead of them. We’re looking forward to seeing what they can do … as long as it’s behind us.”