A KAYAKER from Geelong, Australia’s first youth freestyle medallist is competing the men’s Kayak Freestyle World Championships in Nottingham, England, UK from 27th June to 2th July 2022.

Jack Newland (21) from Geelong, was selected to represent Australia in the men’s kayak category, building on his historic success three years ago.  Jack started kayaking when he was 7 years old for fun with his dad, Peter (61) who also competed in the 2019 World Championships in Spain.  It was a very proud dad moment for Peter when Jack won bronze, Australia’s first ever youth medal.

Jack returned from the last world championships to the second half of year 12, assignments and exams.  Three years later, he is now a carpenter for DKT Building Solutions.  His boss, Dave Kayler-Thompson, has been really supportive of Jack taking over a month off: “it is great working together, we have a great vibe and he gets me,” Jack said.

Jack’s bronze medal is more remarkable coming from Geelong with no white water nearby.  He trained several times a week in a swimming pool, focusing on technique without the recirculating water from waves or holes to assist the kayak to flip or get airborne.  His dedication and focus on bodyweight moves paid off, and this example was used worldwide during COVID restrictions.

Jack has turned the table and is now trying to teach his dad.  Jack is also now supporting the Australian youth kayakers as well as upping his own game as he readies himself to enter the men’s kayak category.  “The last four weeks have been unreal, I’ve progressed more in the last 29 days than any other time kayaking,” he said “it is such a good spot to learn, I’m doing moves I’ve never done before like luna-loop, space-loop and phoenix monkey”.

Claire O’Hara (40), British eight times world champion who married an Australian paddler and moved to Sydney has been helping Jack develop: “Claire has been a great coach, I’ve been sending her videos of training and she’s been giving me really useful feedback,” he said. 

Jack knows there are high hopes for him in this Worlds but he enjoys the pressure and loves competing.  “I listen to gansta-rap to get me into game mode,” he said “I’m just going to take one ride at a time, one heat at a time”.

Expectations are high, but Jack’s achievements go beyond the medallic recognition.  His example made freestyle kayaking more accessible and attainable for paddlers aspiring to learn freestyle with limited opportunities to paddle white water.  His discipline, focus and dedication in training embodies the sporting mantra ‘train like you’ve never won, play like you’ve never lost’, and he is already coaching and encouraging the younger paddlers. 

Regardless of outcome at this competition, Jack how shown he has the growth mind-set, resilience, dedication, focus to keep on developing and keep getting better.  Most importantly he is still having fun with his kayaking: “I can’t wait to get home and catch up with the boys, and go on some kayaking road trips around Canberra,” he said.

Words: Tony Hellier Pic: Tom Clare

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