Bendigo kayaker Rebecca Mann has shown her Olympic dream could one day become reality, after winning a silver medal at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney.
Competing against the strongest field of her career, the 17-year-old’s time of 44.23 seconds smashed her K1 200m kayak sprint personal best by a second.
Mann battled back from an average start to overpower all but Hungary’s Dora Lucz, who crossed the line 0.98 in front.
“My start was OK, but I was trailing the majority of the field,” Mann said.
“I was just playing catch-up in the middle and I came over the top of China and New Zealand at the end. I just didn’t quite get over Hungary, though.
“I feel very honoured to represent my country and get a silver.”
Mann was the only Australian female to win a medal in the under-19s kayak sprint at the Sydney International Regatta Centre, putting her in the box seat for an individual berth at the world titles in August.
It was the second time in a matter of days she had beaten Australia’s number-one ranked under-18 paddler Shannon Reynolds.
“We had the New South Wales championships a couple of days before we raced here and I beat her then, too, so it’s just proving that it’s not a fluke,” Mann said.
“I’d like to race my K1 overseas; it’s definitely a lot easier to conduct one person than two.
“If I do well at (nationals in Perth in April), that usually determines whether you do K1 or K2 or K4 overseas.”
Mann raced to fifth in the K2 500m final with Madison Davies, while her K1 mixed relay was called off yesterday during Sydney’s hottest day on record.
Fellow Bendigo Canoe Club paddler Maddie Batters also recorded a personal best of 42.94 in the K2 200m on her way to fifth place with Queensland’s Tara McAleenan.
Batters, 17, and McAleenan were just 1.36 seconds behind the bronze medallists and defeated the other Australian team by .14, reversing the result from the NSW championships.
Batters made it to the semi-finals of the K1 500m, finishing eighth and is on the fringe of the Australian team for August’s world titles in Canada.
About 1700 athletes from 30 countries are competing at the AYOF, which has been a stepping stone for many Olympic athletes.