kayak competitorsPeter Csonka

Age: 28

Country: Slovakia

Awards: 2012 World Cup Champion

Day job: Kayak retailer

I was 12 when I started paddling. We had a group of kids doing canoe sports, traveling around and doing competitions. It was really nice to have those trips together. At that time, we all were just starting to race and do rafting, doing small competitions, sometimes winning, sometimes losing.


It was a great experience to win the World Cup in 2012. It’s better to have a good feeling about winning than have a bad feeling about losing. I felt very lucky to have won. A long time ago, I was just playing around and paddling for myself. I didn’t have a car or was able to compete further out. 

Then I started to get sponsored by our national team. They supported the trips I was doing and I continued to do that. I have to do many things to keep this going. I work for Vajda, a composite kayak company. I’m selling kayaks, designing them and managing things.

The “Faculty of Physical Training” is what I do for my workouts. We set our trainings to be based with the season. Two or three times a day, sometimes running or paddling. It all depends of where you are and what competition is in front of you.

I don’t care about anything when I’m out there. It’s all about doing my best. I love traveling, and with this I can go to places I’ve never been before. I like to meet new people, play in the hole and kayak with my friends.


Adriene Levknecht

Age: 25

Country: United States of America

Awards: Five time Green Race Champion

5th at 2012 World Cup

2nd at 2013 U.S. Nationals

Day job: E.M.T for Greenville County, S.C.

My parents bought me my first kayak when I was 5 years old. It was a sea kayak because I grew up in Michigan. With river kayaking, my dad brought me down here to the Nantahala – it was actually the first river I paddled on. I was a swimmer, so I really liked the water. My parents took me to all these places in Michigan, and that was time to hangout with them and be in the water, which was real nice.

My career culminated through creeking, where I was a five-time Green Race champion. I was fifth at World Cup last year, second at U.S. Nationals this year and second at Team Trials for the U.S. I got into competition because it was something I thought would be fun. Freestyle for me has been really interesting because it’s a totally different sport.

Freestyle was never really part of my plan. If you asked me eight months ago about being at Worlds, I would’ve said “no,” but I’ve been putting my head down and will be competing against great freestylers.

When I describe freestyle to someone, I use the analogy of BMX biking, where it’s all about timing, technique and tricks. When you get really technical, it’s all about height and angles. For training, I run and do mountain biking. On days that I work, I do a dry land routine, which can be tough after a 14-hour work shift. Usually it’ll be two one-hour sessions a day on the water, with cross training in-between.

The NOC is like my home. I’ve been coming here since I was 10. The people here at NOC have watched me grow. It’s great to see this facility evolve. It’s going to be great that there are so many foreign athletes. It’s fun to see everybody again and see people I only get to see every few years. When I’m out there, I try not to think about anything at all. I try to make sure I know that I got the move. If I’m not sure, I’ll do it again. I’m always thinking about doing my personal best.


James Bebbington

Age: 26

Country: Great Britain

Awards: 2010 & 2011 World Cup Champion

Day job: Paddling coach

I was about 9 years old when I saw paddling on TV. I then joined a local canoe club. It just looked exciting to me when I first saw it. It captured my imagination. And then I saw freestyle and that was more exciting than anything else. Competing was a good way to meet a lot of kids my age that were doing it, seeing as not many kids in my town were doing freestyle. So, I went to competitions to meet other kayakers, and through that made a lot of friends. We all did it together and I just kept going with it.

It was always kind of dream to do well, but it was more about doing as good as I could.

It’s stressful when you’re in your kayak and aren’t able to do what you want, so it’s motivating to do your best and reach your potential, and a byproduct of that is being successful in it. I do some coaching as well, but this is my main thing.

Nothing goes through my head when I’m in the hole. I’m spending the whole time leading up to the event preparing my routine. Whatever happens in there happens. As soon as you go in, it’s empty and time to compete. It’s a bit like gymnastics in a kayak. It’s a combination of skateboarding, surfing and kayaking, and is a very technical sport.

If you don’t know what to look for, it can look like you’re getting trashed out there. It’s all about strict angles.

I’ve been here a week and a half at the facility. The hole here is tricky, but that makes it fun and enjoyable. My final preparations are all about working on my moves. I do a lot of cycling in the winter as well on top of water training. Now, I’m just making sure I’m happy with how the moves are going and take it easy before the competition.

By competing, I learn about myself, I learn a lot of personal lessons. I enjoy kayaking, but I find I learn so much from being out there competing. It’s all about trying to be a good person, working hard and spending time with your friends. We don’t compete against each other, we all just aim to do our best. Whatever place I end up in, I’ll be happy.

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