"Scary big water" part of thrill for Chinese Taipei team

Chinese Taipei has a team of nine athletes in Prague this weekend for the opening weekend of the ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup season.

It’s pretty much everyone from Chinese Taipei who actually participates in canoe slalom. The sport is definitely in its infancy there, but for a country without anything even closely resembling a slalom course, what’s more surprising is that there are so many athletes from the country competing.

“Yeah I’m very excited to be here,” women’s K1 paddler Michelle Liu said.

“We have nine athletes and three coaches here, five women and four men.

“We don’t have so many people doing slalom in Taiwan. We don’t have a course in Taiwan, so it’s not easy to train for the slalom.”

Taipei has been a strong focus for the ICF’s Talent Identification Program (TIP), and the numbers have been growing slowly.

Liu, like many of her teammates, started off as a sprint canoeist. Her reason for changing to slalom is not complicated.

“I think slalom is more fun, I like it,” she said.

“It’s really difficult, I’m a little bit scared of the big water. When I’m paddling I’m scared, but it’s fun.”

In the long term the road for Chinese Taipei paddlers looks difficult, but there is a strong determination. Paddlers like Michelle Liu would love to regularly take on the big names and the toughest courses in the world.

But their first goal is just to get somewhere regularly where they can do proper slalom training.

“It’s really hard for us,” Liu said.

“We have a chance to go to other countries to train, but most of the time we have to pay, and it’s really, really expensive.

“I just want to be better. The Olympic Games is too far away, but maybe the Asian Championships.

“Japan and China are so strong, I want to be competitive, but it is hard.”

The bubbling waters of Prague’s Troja course are a world away from the glass-like surfaces of Taiwan. And so is the company.

“It’s really exciting, quite amazing,” Liu said.

“If you see the Olympic medallists and the World Championships, you think ‘oh my gosh, they’re so cool’”

The ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup 1 begins in Prague on Friday.

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