Canoer Hopes To Follow In Dad's Olympic Shoes Devin McEwan is trying to qualify to represent the U.S. in the Olympic "whitewater slalom" canoeing event. He's got a close role model in the sport — his father Jamie competed in the event in the Olympics in 1972 and 1992.

Canoer Hopes To Follow In Dad's Olympic Shoes

Canoer Hopes To Follow In Dad's Olympic Shoes

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Devin McEwan is trying to qualify to represent the U.S. in the Olympic "whitewater slalom" canoeing event. He's got a close role model in the sport — his father Jamie competed in the event in the Olympics in 1972 and 1992.


From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish. Devin McEwan is hoping to qualify for the Olympics. His event is a sport he's been doing since he was 5 years old - whitewater slalom. As we hear from Craig LeMoult of member station WSHU, he's following in his father's footsteps.

DEVIN MCEWAN: Ah. So this is the C2, a two-person canoe.

CRAIG LEMOULT, BYLINE: Devin McEwan picks up a red boat that's about 14 feet long. It looks more like a kayak than a canoe, but you kneel in it instead of sitting and use a canoe paddle. This is a whitewater slalom boat. Big comic book letters across the top spell out the word woosh with the two O's being the holes where you get in. That design is by Devin's mom, who happens to be the famous illustrator and children's book author Sandra Boynton. Devin says he loves competing in the whitewater slalom because the constantly shifting rapids create what he calls a living landscape.

MCEWAN: Whitewater, it's just - you feel like you're interacting with another being almost, the way that it fluctuates, and it's unpredictable.

LEMOULT: He's still got some big challenges ahead of him before he can pack for the London games. First, the U.S. team will have to win at the Pan American Championship in Brazil later this month in order to even qualify to send a boat to the Olympics. Then he and his partner, Casey Eichfeld, will have to compete in trials to win the right to paddle the U.S. boat. If he does make the team, he won't be the first McEwan Olympian. His father, Jamie McEwan, competed twice in the sport.

MCEWAN: I don't know. I can't really compare myself to my dad in terms of the Olympics.

LEMOULT: Growing up, Jamie's family ran a summer camp, and canoeing was just one of the things he did for fun.

JAMIE MCEWAN: All of a sudden they announced out of the blue it was going to be in the Olympics. And it was like, wow, you know, are you kidding? This back woods thing we do? You know, it was so casual.

LEMOULT: He wound up qualifying for the 1972 Munich Olympics, where he won a bronze medal. But then just as quickly as it became an Olympic sport, it disappeared. It wasn't until 20 years later that the sport came back, and he got another shot at the Olympics. At 39 years old, Jamie and his partner placed fourth in Barcelona. And now another 20 years later, his son Devin is hoping to compete in the 2012 whitewater slalom event.


LEMOULT: Just outside Devin's front door and across a small street is the Housatonic River. They've set up a slalom course on a spot where there are some mild rapids.

MCEWAN: There are cables strung over the river, and hanging from them are PVC pipes.

LEMOULT: As he stands on the porch looking out over the Housatonic, it starts snowing.

MCEWAN: It really is one of the coolest experiences in the world to be out on the slalom course when it's snowing. It makes me feel like a tough guy.

LEMOULT: So can we go be tough guys, then?

MCEWAN: Absolutely.

LEMOULT: Devin carries the canoe to the river's edge and gets in the back. Then it's my turn.

MCEWAN: So what you want to do is just step into the center.

LEMOULT: An elastic skirt fits snugly around my waist and connects to the canoe to keep the water out. And then...


LEMOULT: That's all the sound I managed to record at the river. That's because about a minute after we pushed off onto the Housatonic, the canoe flipped. Devin leaned upstream and the river caught the edge of the boat. And suddenly, I was upside down in ice-cold water without a paddle. Here's Devin after we dried off and warmed up a bit.

MCEWAN: So we had a little bit of a swim. The only real damage was to my ego.


LEMOULT: Devin is trying to see it as a good sign. He says, hopefully, he's gotten that out of his system. And now, he can go on to Olympic victory. For NPR News, I'm Craig LeMoult.

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