With Lake Banook as its backdrop, Canada’s sprint canoe-kayak team is hoping for an historic weekend.

Canada, represented by its largest team ever at the world championships starting today in Dartmouth, is gunning for a top-three finish in the overall team point standings and is quietly hoping to knock off either Hungary or Germany, traditionally the powerhouse nations at this event.

“One of our goals is some day to be the top (canoe-kayak) nation in the world,” said national team head coach Graham Barton. “This is one of our opportunities to take that step.”

Canada’s record 42 athletes are among 1,000 participants from more than 70 countries on Lake Banook this weekend. It will mark the first time Canada has an athlete entered in every event. Traditionally, financial concerns and a focus on the Olympics meant smaller teams were sent to worlds.

While Hungary and Germany are usually the top two nations, Canada battles it out with countries such as Poland, Russia and Spain for the final spot on the podium.

At worlds, Canada often finds itself in the fifth- and sixth-place range, while it placed third at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and fourth at the Beijing Games last summer.

“Our team is strong throughout,” said Halifax canoeist Richard Dalton. “We’re going to have chances to be in the top-five or on the podium in a lot of different events.

“Our team is extremely strong and we’re well able to go out and compete with those big countries.”

Worlds were also held on Lake Banook in 1997 and they will bring plenty of excitement to Dartmouth before their conclusion on Sunday. Virtually every member of the Canadian team has family and friends in town to cheer them on — and that’s especially true for the 11 athletes from Nova Scotia.

“Being at home has given us an extra level of comfort and confidence,” the 30-year-old Dalton said. “Everyone’s in peak shape and we’re ready to go for it.”

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