NW sprint canoers paddle their way toward Olympics

RENTON, Wash. - Some local athletes are spending Thanksgiving weekend on the water in a sport in which the Northwest has an advantage - with one of the best talent pools in the country.

It's known as sprint canoeing and kayaking.

When it's done right, the motion is sleek and spring-loaded. Each dip of the blade speeds the craft forward.

This holiday weekend, a hardy group is trading turkey for training to perfect their art.

"If I want to be a fast paddler, then I have to go through all this stuff. This is what makes a good athlete," says 16-year-old Alyson Morse.

She dreams of competing in the Olympics, and a weekend camp at Cascade Canoe and Kayak in Renton is helping her get there.

The camp brought in former Olympian Mac Hickox to assist an already talented stable of coaches - to give Northwest athletes a leg up by learning from some of the best paddlers in the nation.

"This area here in the Northwest of the United States is a hotbed for canoe and kayak," says Hickox. "You need to have a champion, in terms of rallying the troops so to speak, and this area is blessed with some really strong coaches."

The training camp teaches canoe sprinting, where the paddler kneels, as well as kayak sprinting, where the athlete sits.

Alyson Morse races with Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak - and helped her team win the national championship this year. Maybe the Olympics is just around the corner for her.

"This has changed my life a lot, and it's made me a more focused person," she says.

Teams taking part in the camp this holiday weekend include the canoe and kayak clubs from Seattle, Gig Harbor and Renton.