Ford paddles back onto national team at 50
Thursday, May 18, 2017 06:00 am
Turning 50 has not slowed down kayak legend David Ford.
The five-time Olympian earned a spot on the Canadian national team with a win and two silver medals at the 2017 whitewater kayak/canoe slalom national team trials at Canoe Meadows, Kananaskis, May 13-14.
Ford has now made national team criteria in five different decades of his life, and must now decide if he will return to the world cup in June, and race world championships in September.
After missing the 2016 Summer Olympics, Ford stepped away from on-water training to spend more time enjoying his Rocky Mountain lifestyle. But once team trials were moved from Whistler to Kananaskis, the Canmorite decided to give it a go.
“It really wasn’t my intention,” said Ford, who celebrated his 50th birthday in March. “But I thought since it’s in my backyard, I’d put in a month of training. It was cool to win one of the races. Now the question is what to do?”
Considering he hadn’t raced his kayak in 11 months, the result is incredible. Ford is still in remarkable shape and spent much of his year cross-country skiing, mountain biking, hiking and golfing with his son Cooper and wife Kelly Vanderbeek. His technical skills weren’t quite on point on race day, yet with an unmatched body of experience, he had plenty of veteran savvy to draw upon.
“I didn’t find getting the fitness back was tough. It was the sport specific intuitive part which was tricky. I didn’t have those 12 months of training to draw upon like a regular season,” Ford said.
Contemplating his future within the sport, Ford had to rediscover his love of paddling, and wasn’t sure if he’d enjoy pulling on a racing bib again after an 11 month hiatus.
“I had to think about what I can do to enjoy the sport again, to figure out how to get back and have fun, and see if that brings back that fire. When you’re having fun, you tend to do well,” Ford said.
“I wasn’t sure what it would be like to be back in the boat after 11 months, to be honest. I didn’t realize how much I missed it.”
An athlete on the vanguard of cutting edge training techniques, Ford used his month of preparation to sharpen his skills.
“I really had to be careful, and not paddle myself into a hole. I had to draw on my experience to really periodize my workouts to get the most technical training, without getting too tired,” Ford said. “With the race here, I could train specifically on what I thought would be the course, and it worked pretty well.”
The trials race saw Ford share the Kananaskis river with paddlers as young as 12. He was able to find motivation watching the next generation. Keenan Simpson, 18, finished third overall, right behind Ford. Michael Tayler took the top spot.
“You see those guys floating like beach balls down the course. Watching them with so much passion to win the race – it reminds me of where I was 30 years ago,” Ford said.
World cup season begins in June, so Ford must decide this week if he will keep racing, or give up his space to another paddler and spend time with his young family
“World championships are in Pau, France this year, which is a really fun course. This gives me the opportunity to go back to Europe and close the chapter.”