Bratislava, Slovakia - If, as the old adage is true, patience is a virtue and virtue is a grace, Pierre Gosselin is one grace-ful guy. Where others might see frustration, Gosselin sees progress. Where some might furrow their brow, Gosselin just smiles. "Everyday is a day forward," he says.
For the past four years, Gosselin has been living full-time in southeast Asia helping build slalom from the ground up in countries like Chinese Taipei, Thailand and Korea as well as those farther afield in other countries on other continents.
He's brought representatives from 12 of his fledgling slalom outposts to these 2011 Canoe Slalom World Championships. In addition to the three countries mentioned, other countries from the Talent Identification Program competing here in Bratislava include Argentina, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Finland, Lebanon, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Turkey.
The athletes clearly enjoy the experience as well.
Babacar Daoust-Cisse said he's proud to race for Senegal. Half Canadian, a trip to Senegal last winter to meet with his country's sports federation turned Daoust into a bit of a media sensation, the topic of interviews and stories with national newspapers and TV stations. "It's great to be the first in the sport for that country and help develop slalom in Senegal," said Daoust.
This is the first World Championship experience for Facundo Gancedo of Argentina. The newest recruit to the ICF Development program, Gancedo first joined the program less than a week ago on Sept. 1. Gancedo started paddling with friends in Alumine-Neuquen, a "really small town" in central Argentina where paddling is a popular pastime. Gancedo praised the great Development program coaching staff and also said he is having a great time training with people who like paddling as much as he does.
Gosselin said this year's team of five coaches - athletes hailing from Slovenia, Slovakia and France - lo.lohas been fantastic, maybe even the best ever.
At the other end of the experience spectrum is Pan' Hung-Ming. Hung-Ming loves all manner of water sports like canoe polo, dragon boat, swimming, anything water related. The 18-year-old from Chinese Taipei is in his third year of the Development program and most proud of personal best second place finish earlier this year in Bourg St-Maurice, a World Cup ranking event. Hung-Ming and other more experienced paddlers get tapped by Gosselin to prepare presentations on training tips for the newer paddlers to the program.
Gosselin said such presentations, in combination with judges training, is a way for the athletes to give back to their sport while becoming more well-versed in every aspect of it.
While competitive results and rankings are logical metrics of progress, Gosselin finds satisfaction and motivation elsewhere. The camaraderie of the athletes is evidence on and off the course.
If an athlete swims, they dive in and help. The other day we had a swim and one guy got the boater and the other guy got the boat," explained Janos Peterlin of Slovenia.
Gosselin was also pleased with another kind of outcome. "At a barbecue the other night, these young people from diverse countries, some of whom have never traveled outside their country, were talking to each other as athletes," Gosselin said. "It helps you believe this world can be peaceful one day."