Sunday, August 1, 2004

Kathy Colin will team with Maui's Lauren Spalding to represent the United States in Athens in the K-2 and K-4 events.

Colin takes one
last shot at an
Olympic medal

The Punahou School alumna
is competing in her second --
and final -- Summer Games

Breaking up may be hard to do but it may have been the best thing for Kathy Colin.

When her longtime K-2 kayaking partner Ruth Nortje decided to focus on the K-1 following the 2003 World Championships, Colin could have seen her Olympic medal hopes float away. Instead, she heads to Athens with a renewed spirit and a new teammate who shares more than a boat.

Colin is teaming with Maui's Lauren Spalding in a K-2 named "Onipa'a" (steadfast and strong). The pair won the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in the boat, which also has a Hawaiian flag sticker on it.

"We're representing Hawaii as well as the U.S.," said Colin, a 1992 Punahou School graduate competing in her second Olympics. "Lauren is an incredible athlete. She has picked up flatwater kayaking very quickly.

"We enjoy paddling together, have incredible respect for each other, and understand what it takes to make our boat move."

The Colin file

Sport: Canoe/Kayak

Events: Flatwater K-2 500m, Flatwater K-4 500m.

Competition dates: Aug. 23-28.

Birthdate: Feb. 6, 1974

Birthplace: Mountain View, Calif.

College: Washington

Tie to Hawaii: Punahou graduate (1992) grew up in Kailua. Her family moved to Hawaii when she was 8 months old.

Fun Fact: Colin, who earned letters in kayaking, paddling and gymnastics at Punahou, was in the same homeroom as former Olympic volleyball player Mike Lambert.

Did you know?: Colin loves sailing and hopes to compete someday in the America's Cup.

The pairing wasn't planned. After the break with Nortje, Colin said her complete focus was on the K-4.

"Even though the U.S. had not had a strong performance in a K-4 in many years, I knew that we could change that in one year," said Colin, who strokes both the K-2 and K-4. "Our K-4 crew (Colin, Spalding, Carrie Johnson and Marie Mijalis) had never sat in a boat together, but after three teamboat selection camps we were convinced that we were the crew. We committed completely to each other and the boat and have given all we can to this boat.

"In the process of forming our K-4, Lauren and I also discovered that we paddle very well together in the K-2. All training we do together, in either boat, benefits the other. Our other two teammates understand that and are very supportive of our K-2 efforts."

Colin and Spalding had competed together before, paddling the Na Wahine O Ke Kai women's Molokai-to-Oahu race last September. Team Eyecatcher/Wailua Canoe & Kayak finished fourth despite the crew never having paddled together prior to the 40-mile race.

It was the fourth Na Wahine O Ke Kai for Colin, who paddled and kayaked for Punahou before heading to the University of Washington. Her Huskies crew won the JV National Collegiate Championship in 1994.

In 1995-96, Colin decided to give up rowing and attempted to make the 1996 Olympic team. She finished ninth at the trials, fueling her hunger to get to the Games.

"I guess my Olympic dream started as soon as I was old enough to realize what the Olympics were," she said. "What child doesn't dream of going to the Olympics? I don't believe I realized I could accomplish this dream until I participated in the 1996 Olympic trials.

"I was unprepared, my focus at the time was college and the college experience. I rowed in college just for the experience of participating in a collegiate sport. I was fit, but not at all kayak-prepared for those trials. I finished ninth and instead of being happy with my performance, which was better than most expected with my lack of kayaking training, I was upset that I could be so close without any preparation.

"At that point I realized if I was willing to go for it I could make the next Olympic team. I made that commitment, and the rest is history."

At the 2000 Games in Sydney, Colin didn't medal, losing in the semifinals of both the K-1 and K-2. This will be the 30-year-old's last shot at an Olympic medal.

"I am ready to move on with my life and have time to pursue other goals and interests," said Colin, who works full-time as a software engineer for Northrop Grumman in San Diego. "I have greatly enjoyed my kayaking career and have grown and learned so much about myself and the world through the years of competitive kayaking.

"I have traveled to five continents to represent my country doing something I love. I have also learned about myself and learned I really can accomplish a lot as long as I am willing to work for it and make the necessary sacrifices. I am a better person for these experiences. With all of that said, I am ready to move on. I hope to feel my potential has been reached so I can move on without any regrets."

Athens 2004 Olympic Games


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