A Burnaby canoeist is poised to make her first appearance at the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games this August.
By finishing second overall at the Burnaby Lake open age trials this past May, Samantha Loutet qualified for a spot in the Western Canada Summer Games in Fort McMurray, Alta., which will mark her first time competing at this level.
“I’m nervous, but I’m also excited. There’ll be lots of people there who do what I do. It’ll be good competing against people I’ve never raced against before,” said Loutet, who has won numerous gold medals at smaller regattas, from Bellingham to Nanaimo.
Although she now feels very passionately about canoeing, the honour roll student and her mother stumbled onto the sport almost entirely by accident.
A Groupon for one week with Canoe Kids, an instructional program held at Burnaby Lake, was the first foray into the world of competitive water sports for Loutet and her twin sister Katrina and it wouldn’t be their last.
The fourteen-year-old enjoyed the one week program so much that she signed up for the three week program, and finally for the Canoe Kids sprint class, which teaches competitive racing in racing canoes like those seen at this year’s Pan-Am games.
“It just escalated from there,” said Loutet, who is now entering her fourth summer paddling. “I (wanted) to keep doing this.”
After three weeks of camps, Loutet took part in her first regatta – the Pacific Cup.
The following year, the girls took out a membership at the club and volunteered in the learn-to-paddle camps in the mornings, while practising in the afternoons.
By 12, the twins had chosen their crafts – Samantha in canoe and Katrina in kayak.
In 2014, the pair went to the B.C. Summer Games, with Samantha taking a bronze medal in the 200-metre single canoe, a gold in the 2,000m pairs and a silver in the 500m pairs, as well as a silver in the 500m fours. She also shared a third-place medal in the kayak fours.
The Burnaby Central student could find herself competing against young women in their late teens at the Western Canada Games.
“Women’s canoe doesn’t have a lot of people,” said Loutet, “If you’re at that level, you just go up.” Her favourite races are the 200 and 500m distances.
Practices run twice on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays with a single practice on Thursdays. Though dry land practices have begun incorporating themselves into her preparations, Loutet enjoys her training out on the water much more and hopes to keep out of the weight room for a little while.
And while some of her teammates complain of knee pain after extended periods in their canoes, Loutet rarely tires of her time paddling, and slight leg spasms from exhaustion are the only things resembling injuries that she has suffered to date
“She should do well at Westerns,” said the Burnaby Canoe and Kayak Club head coach Wes Hammer, who is an athlete himself, having competed in the 2007 Pan-American Games.
In what little free time she has in the summer, Loutet enjoys playing soccer, catching up with friends and watching Netflix.
When asked about the feeling that paddling brought her, Loutet was almost at a loss for words. “I just focus on myself; you just feel in the zone. It’s the best feeling,” she said.