Posted on Thursday, July 4, 2019 at 9:50am
Paddling his way to the top
Fifteen-year-old Benoit Davies isn’t afraid of getting wet or being sunburned.
The young man is quite literally Rockland’s only flatwater sprint kayaker. “Chase your dream, train hard and give it all you’ve got,” he answers when asked if he has any words to offer other athletes his age. Already boasting several medals, some of them gold, as well as ribbons, Benoit is on the road to becoming quite a successful kayaker.
In doing so, the young athlete has had to train for several hours a day. “In the summer, I train during the week, from about 7:00 to 10:00 a.m. in the morning, then from about 6:00 at night to 8:30 a.m.,” he said, his proud father standing nearby. “On weekends, I train on the water.”
The young man also follows a strict, high protein diet. “Over the course of winter, he gained about 20 pounds, and that’s muscle,” Paul Davies, patriarch of the family, added. “He eats five times a day, devouring high calorie and high protein meals or shakes, even his snacks are high energy. He spends time each day doing mental kayak races where in his mind he is winning, losing, or is neck and neck with an opponent, and he imagines what he must do to be first. In the doorway to his bedroom is a pull-up bar where he does some pull ups, every time he enters or leaves.”
A member of the renowned Rideau Canoe Club, Benoit began his paddling adventure back in 2013. “My mother is the one who asked me if I wanted to take a two-week class at the Petrie Island Canoe Club,” he explained. “I took it and really enjoyed it. Then I went back the year after that.”
From there, Benoit took part in the full summer camp, which lasted the better part of July and August. The young man does point out, however, that he only started competing on a professional level in 2016. That’s the year he won his first ever gold medal. His win also cemented his local fame; he had won the first gold medal for the Petrie Island Canoe Club. “It was the Ontario Championship,” Benoit recalls. “It was a two-kilometer race and there were about 20 kayakers. It was one kilometer one way, then we had to turn and do another one kilometer.”
The race ended up being a nail-bitter, for Benoit did not have the best of starts. “It was a really close finish,” he admitted. “I wasn’t doing too good at first, but I managed to pass everyone coming back. I usually have a strong finish. I constantly build up my speed.” The young man is what his father calls a tactical racer.
Taking an active part in the sport can be quite expensive, as the Davies learned. Paul points to a nearby kayak, sitting on two lawn chairs. “That was Ben’s first kayak,” he said. “It used to be owned by Caroline Brunet, an Olympian. It was $1,200 and it was used.” The young man’s father points to a little fin like portion found under the boat. “It even has a rudder, so Ben can turn it,” he explained. “It’s turned with the feet.” The young man moves a small rope inside the canoe to make the rudder turn from side to side.
Benoit’s newest kayak, which is also used, cost $2,000. But that’s not even half of it.
The young man lifts his long paddle and promptly takes it apart in two pieces. “I can adjust how long I want it or in what angle I want it,” he said, expertly adjusting the small metal middle portion of it. A paddle can cost more than $700. “Mine is heavier than most paddles because of the medal block,” he pointed out. “Some are made of plastic, but they’re more prone to break.”
When asked what goes through his mind, the young man ponders for a little while before answering with a smile, “Paddling harder than everyone else.” According to him, it’s not so much the waves, which are nearly never present, or the hot sun that hampers his racing the most. “You always have to be careful of the wind,” he mentioned. “It can push you and you can end up in someone else’s lane. You can even tip your canoe.”
Has he ever tipped? “It happened once, when I started,” he admitted, a smile reappearing on his face. “But I haven’t tipped in a long time.”
Benoit aspires to not only reach the Olympics, but to also promote the
sport he loves with a passion. “I am going to try to go the furthest I can,” he
affirmed. “I would also love to become an ambassador or a coach.”