Young paddler scores medal haul at nationals
Pelly Vincent-Braun grew up on the river.
PADDLING PRODIGY – Pelly Vincent-Braun, pictured competing in the C-1 slalom, won eight medals at the Canadian National Whitewater Championships this month. Photo courtesy of RFORT FOTOS
Pelly Vincent-Braun grew up on the river. But not even the 14-year-old paddler himself could have predicted his instant success when competing on the national stage.
Competing at the Canadian National Whitewater Championships in Kananaskis, Alta. earlier this month, Vincent-Braun took home eight medals, including two golds, in what marked his first-ever paddling competition in slalom and downriver races.
According to Yukan Canoe, a small Yukon paddling company operated by his father Trevor Braun, the youngster is the first competitor from the territory to compete in the downriver and slalom events at the national championships.
Overall, the Whitehorse paddler struck gold in the C-2 classic and sprint downriver events, alongside Saskatchewan’s Ben Lapointe, while also collecting silver in the C-1 downriver sprint and bronze in the C-1 downriver classic.
In the slalom division, Vincent-Braun won two bronze medals in the C-2 junior men and open men category, and he took home two more bronze medals in the open men OC-1 and C-1 freestyle categories.
“That was kind of what I thought I could do,” Vincent-Braun said of his large medal haul.
Much thanks was due to his dad and his coach Mike Holroyd, he quickly added.
Even more impressive was the fact the young paddler actually competed in an age category above his usual cadet ranking (youth under 15). Instead, he competed in the junior (15 to 18) and open men levels.
“Competing against the higher athletes, I was feeling pushed more, and I was a couple of years younger than them all,” he said.
In April, Vincent-Braun visited Kananaskis for a training camp, where he got started in slalom.
While the race style was new to Vincent-Braun, not much can faze him on the river, as he has been in a boat since he was old enough to hold a paddle, and is already a whitewater canoeing teaching assistant for his father’s company.
“My dad owns a canoe school and my parents have been paddling for a very long time, so I was basically forced to,” he quipped.
Somewhere along the line, Vincent-Braun fell in love with the same sport as his father, and now has his sights set on a future appearance at the Olympics.
His mother, Jane Vincent, competed at the 1992 Olympics as a cross-country skier.
“My mom was in the Olympics for cross-country skiing, so it would be pretty cool to go for paddling,” he told the Star yesterday.
Vincent-Braun did have some interest in the sport of flatwater sprint paddling, which the Yukon is currently competing in for the first time at the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que., but said it didn’t stack up to the thrills of whitewater.
“I find flatwater sprint kind of boring,” he said frankly. “It’s kind of good, but those boats are so tippy and all about the straight lines. I’m more into doing spins and turning.”
The new gold medallist will miss next Wednesday’s Whitewater Rodeo hosted by the Yukon Canoe and Kayak Club because he will be out on the river on a family canoe trip.
Not long after that, Vincent-Braun will be back in school, enrolling at Wood Street for Grade 9.