Perfecting the Chemistry of Kayaking

By Brooke Grantham

Saskatoon's Corrina Kennedy is not your run of the mill U of S chemical engineering student. The 24-year-old is also a world champion kayaker bound for the Atlanta Olympics next summer.

And it's been a tough haul. Through four years of university studies, Kennedy split her time between studying and her sport.

She said her professors have been especially helpful in accommodating her life on the road.

"I've had a lot of exam times changed. I've had professors faxing my assignments, and they've just been really cooperative.

I don't think another university would have done this for me." But neither area was getting her full attention, so she's taken two years off university to concentrate on paddling.

"I still did well in school, but I found I didn't get as much out of it as I could have if I was there."

The renewed focus on paddling has paid off. In August, Kennedy and her Canadian teammates won two gold medals at the world canoe and kayak championships in Duisburg, Germany. She also finished sixth in her individual event, and helped the Canadian women's team qualify in all flat-water paddling events for the Olympics.

"To have your best race, and find out that you're the best in the world, that was the most amazing feeling," she said of her gold-medal performance in the K-2 200 metres with partner Marie-Jose Gibeau of Lachine, Quebec. Kennedy was surprised neither of them was nervous at the start line. "We said `OK, we've been training for this race,'" said Kennedy. They knew they were strong in all stages of the event.

"It was just putting it together, and we put it together."

Some lessons she has learned as an elite athlete are also very useful in daily life.

"What I learned from this (race) is in school and in work you always have to think `what do I have to do to be my best?' and never think of the result. You just have to work at yourself. And you never know what can happen."

Kennedy plans to work for an oil company and train in Calgary this fall and then focus on training for Olympics full time. Next September, she plans to return to university for her last year of chemical engineering studies.