Tristan Carter had been paddling for years, against the best athletes in the world in some of the biggest competitions on the planet.

But sitting on the start line at Penrith in February he felt overwhelmed.

“It was something I never felt before. I was shaking, I was terrified,” Carter said.

“I’ve never had that feeling before a run before. I’d never been in a position of that magnitude before.”

One week earlier he thought he had blown his chances of getting to his first ever Olympics. On the eve of the Tokyo Olympics, the same thing had happened – he had qualification in the cusp of his hands, but blew it.

At the Oceania Championships, the first qualifying opportunities for the men’s C1 for Australia, he put in a shocker. His dream was all but over. He had one last chance, at the Australian Championships the following weekend, but it would be tough.

“It was a stressful week in between,” he told the ICF’s Path to Paris Podcast.


“You just have to sit there and dwell, there was a lot going on in my brain. I was trying not to think about it, but it’s hard not to.”

The day of the final race, Carter was a bundle of nerves. All his opponents had already been down the course, and their times were competitive. If he was thinking straight, Carter would have reasoned that he could go under those times without taking risks.

But Carter was in no state to reason. His mind was a blur. Next thing he knew, he was rocking and rolling down the Penrith course.

“I think as soon as I started that run, I don’t know who was paddling the boat, but it wasn’t me,” he said.

“I don’t remember that run much. I had a little mistake, but I told myself, this isn’t how its going to end. I’m not going to let it end this way.”

He knew his run was good. And when he crossed the finish line, and he saw the reaction of his family and friends on the bank, and the excitement in the commentary, he knew he’d done it.

And the emotions overflowed.

“I cried. I’m a big softie, I’m a very emotional person when things aren’t going my way, and when they do go my way. I wear my heart on my sleeve,” Carter said.

“These past few years have been difficult. The last Olympic selection I had four years ago, through to this year, it’s been very up and down.

“It’s frustrating expecting these things to happen.

“As soon as you find out what the Olympic Games are, and you’re a little kid, it’s what every kid dreams of doing. This is the childhood definition of a dream come true. This is many decades of hard work finally paying off.”

Carter says he doesn’t feel je made sacrifices to get where he has. But he has certainly put all his eggs in one basket, moving cities, putting studies on hold, and basically devoting most of his waking hours to work out a path to the Olympics.

“A lot of people say athletes make lots of sacrifices, but I don’t see it that way. I’ve chosen to do this,” he said.

“Everything I’ve done, I’ve done because I chose to do it. I don’t know why athletes do this to themselves, it’s so stressful. It’s torture in many ways. We are our own worst enemies, but it’s an amazing journey and an amazing experience.

“Now I get to stand proudly with my shoulders and head held high, standing proudly in my green and gold, with those Olympic rings on my chest. It’s another level of happiness.”

You can hear Tristan Carter describe his journey to slalom paddling, and how he stays focused, on the ICF Path to Paris Podcast.


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Canoe Slalom