OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - On a bright, sunny Saturday afternoon, some of the best kayakers in the nation grabbed their paddles and kayaks with one thing on their mind – Olympic gold.
"What this camp is to give us a great opportunity to train as a team and work together before we get to Europe," said Jones junior kayaker Augustus Cook.
Teens from all over the nation - from Washington state to Orlando, Florida - came to the Boathouse District in Oklahoma City to train in the Olympic Hopes Kayak Discovery Camp.
"Hopefully we will have more experience together during this camp and we will be able to make the finals this year since we made semifinals last year," said Washington state kayaker Emma McCoy said. "We hope to gain more racing experience, more confidence because those eastern Europeans are really big and they are scary. They race at such a higher level so hopefully this year I’ll be able to get a better feel for what that’s like."
The camp was an opportunity for kayakers to prepare themselves in hopes of making it to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. McCoy, who started kayaking three years ago, traveled 1,900 miles to participate in the camp.
"Instead of going to Europe and then paddling for the first time with someone new, we are coming here to train together so that way we have a fighting chance of making the finals in the Olympic Hopes," McCoy said.
The fiercely competitive sport has kayakers competing in K-1, K-2, or K-4 events, which stands for how many kayakers are in each boat.
For Cook, he's been dreaming of competing in the Olympics since starting kayaking six years ago.
"We are training in the team boats because a lot of times you get there and you kind of just practice your boats that you get there," Cook said. "So you have 3-4 days to practice in a boat you’ve never been in before and you are about to race in one of the biggest events in your life up to this point."
The Boathouse District in OKC will be the host of the Kayaking Nationals in August. The top teams to finish here will qualify for the Olympic Regatta in Poland in September.
"I really do want to go to the Olympics," McCoy said. "The longer I do this, the more I love racing at a high level. So, right now my goal is to go to nationals, kill it, go back to Olympic Hopes and hopefully make Junior Worlds and then the Olympics."
The USA finished with 16 medals - five of those gold - in the 2016 Summer Olympics.