A year ago, Karen Furneaux’s dream of a third trip to the Summer Olympic Games was very much in jeopardy.
But the Waverley kayaker has put a frustrating season of injuries behind her and looks like a sure bet for Beijing entering the final stage of qualifying next week in Europe.
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Furneaux is coming off a terrific month and is one of six Nova Scotians competing at World Cup sprint canoe-kayak regattas in Szeged, Hungary, and Duisburg, Germany. She didn’t even make the national team for those events last year.
“Last year was a bit frustrating for me, but I still had some good results toward the end of the summer,” Furneaux said. “I knew I was on track and that I would be able to train at my full capacity this year, and that was my goal.”
Furneaux said she has completely recovered from back and shoulder injuries that caused her to post uncharacteristically slow times last May. It shows in her results.
Last month, Furneaux won K-1 500-metre races at the Canadian Olympic team trials in Gainesville, Ga., and the Pan American canoe-kayak championships in Montreal. She was also part of the winning K-4 500 crew at both events.
The 31-year-old called this year’s success a relief.
“When you train at something for 17 years and it all comes together at the right time … it feels good,” she said. “I’m really happy with how things are going.”
Furneaux said her dream is to race both K-1 and K-4 in Beijing, but she’ll face stiff competition in K-1 from long-time teammate and rival Emilie Fournel of Dorval, Que.
“My goal is not to simply beat her,” Furneaux said. “My goal is to be among the best in the world and if I can do that, I will be assured of my Olympic spot.”
Furneaux lists “personal improvement” as her biggest motivator, and in line with that, she doesn’t waver when asked if she can be at the peak of her career when August rolls around.
“I believe I will, yes,” she said. “I believe I can be better every day. I’m searching for that personal improvement every single day on the water and it’s a huge driving force for me.”
Dartmouth’s Andrew Russell also appears a near lock for the Olympics at the World Cups. He posted wins in the C-2 500 and 1,000 in Gainesville and Montreal with partner Gabriel Beauchesne-Sevigny of Trois-Rivieres, Que.