Tuesday, July 4, 2000
a medal contender
Journey to the top continuesBy Pat Bigold
for the Kailua athlete who switched
from gymnastics to paddling
in high school
Powering and maneuvering the K-1 kayak requires the kind of balance an athlete like Kathy Colin possesses.
"The boats are extremely tippy," said the 26-year-old Kailua-raised Olympian. "They're made for speed so there's as little water coverage as possible. We're basically teetering. It's like paddling on a rolling ball."
Colin probably owes her equilibrium to her early gymnastics endeavors.
It was after she blew out her knee in high school that she was steered into kayaking.
It was kismet. But the changeover didn't come easy.
"It's not like basketball where you just go out there and start shooting baskets," she said. "In kayaking you're going to be swimming for the first two months. You have to be committed from day one because you're not going to have fun right away."
Sport: Sprint kayak
Quote: "I looked at the girls who beat me (at 1996 trials) and I said, 'I can do that.' "
Colin stuck with it long enough to make it to the 1996 Olympic trials.
"I've been an athlete my whole life and people would ask me if my goal was the Olympics," said Colin. "It never was until I raced at the 1996 trials."
She finished ninth in the K-1 and sixth in the K-2.
"I hate to lose," said Colin. "I looked at the girls who beat me and I said, 'I can do that.' "
So Colin, a computer engineer, poured her life into kayaking and traveled the world.
The road to the top was anything but glamorous.
"My (K-2 kayaking) partner, Tamara (Jenkins), and I were trying to list the five worst beds we've slept in," said Colin.
"The worst was in Slovakia. I don't even know if it was comfortable. It was just so dirty looking that I just refused to get in it. I asked coach if I could sleep out in the car."
By 1998, Colin was one of the world's best female kayakers.
In April, she won six gold medals in Brazil at the first of the year's four World Cup events.
Despite missing the next two cup events, she was ranked fifth in the world.
But then came the Olympic trials last month in Chula Vista, Calif., and Colin finished second in the K-1 to the 21-year-old Jenkins, who hails from Seattle.
"There were high wind warnings and it was a direct side wind and it was just horrible," said Colin.
In fact, it was because Colin thought she was going to flip over that she stopped three times during the race. She eventually lost to Jenkins by about four-tenths of a second.
"In a 500-meter race, (which is) less than a two-minute race, you can't stop," she said. "It cost me the win.
"It was really disappointing to lose. Don't get me wrong -- I'm happy for Tamara. But I wanted to get the K-1 spot, too.''
On June 28, the International Canoe Federation officially added the U.S. women's K-2 sprint tandem of Colin and Jenkins to the entry list.
The 5-foot-7 Colin and the 5-9 Jenkins are considered K-2 medal contenders. The two earned a silver medal in the 1,000-meter race at the World Cup held in Duisburg, Germany, late last month.
Colin knows the international K-2 field will be very strong in Sydney.
"It's going to be a really tough race, but an Olympic year is always time for miracles,'' she said. "I do believe we are one of the fastest K-2s the U.S. has ever had.''