Got a call this morning from my brother Alan.
His voice broke. He was emotional. Been up all night.
On the other side of the world, Szeged, Hungary, at 2:30 A.M. our time, this August 24, Nevin Harrison, who trained at Gig Harbor the last seven or eight months or so, who is from Seattle but paddles for Team Gig Harbor, approached the starting line in Lane 7. (Click the following link to watch the race.)
Alan, who for the last 15 years has strategized Gig Harbor’s success nationally, winning seven national titles in the last eight years, had joined forces with Aaron Huston who is responsible for coaching internationally.
According to Alan, the announcers, who he believed to be Australian, in identifying each of the competitors as the 200M Canoe finals began, noted the fast lead taken by Nevin.
“But will she have the endurance to keep it up?” one of them said.
“These other gals are older, experienced, champions of their countries for years.”
Earlier that same evening the Mayor of Gig Harbor had sent out an email to his fellow councilmembers of the need to build a dock for the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team (GHCKRT).
For a decade-and-a-half GHCKRT has launched their fragile craft from the beach.
Alan responded to that email with one of his own saying “Tonight, I’ve a hunch that history will be made. History for women. History for this nation. History for Gig Harbor.”
Last night Alan wrote the headline that would appear in this morning’s news.
And then, from 5,596 miles away, Alan watched it happen.
Alan said he had seen Nevin Harrison’s semi-final where she had finished second and, in the process, setting a new American record.
“There was fire in her eyes.
“At one event,” Alan related, “someone remarked that they didn’t think Nevin could do it.”
‘It’, apparently referring to competing at the world level.
“Nobody tells me what I can and cannot do,” Nevin responded according to Alan.
Nevin won it all.
Gig Harbor will be representing the United States.
According to NBC Sports this morning, “If Harrison can repeat the feat in Tokyo next year, she will become the youngest woman to earn Olympic canoe or kayak gold.
“Harrison joined Greg Barton as the only Americans to win an individual world title in sprint canoe or kayak.”
My son and I competed one year in a double rowing shell against Greg Barton in the Great Cross Sound Race, billed as the largest open water human-powered-craft event in the Northwest.
Barton hadn’t even shown up in time to pay his registration fees there at Alki Beach in Seattle.
Over 100 of us in the shadow of the Space Needle had already responded to the starting shotgun blast churning the water into a white froth as we headed out across the shipping lanes to Bainbridge Island.
That’s when the late-arriving Barton apparently threw his entry money and paperwork in the direction of the registrars and launched his kayak.
My son and I didn’t know Barton was there.
But we would.
With the hour-long race half-over, and having built a sizeable lead, comfortably in first place, we saw a shadow emerge from the pack behind Blakely Rock.
We both said out loud at once: “Greg Barton”.
Approaching the mid-channel buoy with maybe a mile to go, Barton was right behind our double shell.
Barton kindly suggested we move over.
Believing he had all of Puget Sound to work with, we refused.
He went around us and then did what Barton does.
And now Nevin Harrison has done what Harrison does.
Finished first, becoming the first American to win a world sprint canoe title.
She’s only 17.
Alan said Huston texted him from Szeged, “Thank you for letting me stand on your shoulders.”
Then Alan said to me on the phone, “I’ve got to go David”
“There are a bunch of 11-year-olds down there on the water here in Gig Harbor waiting for me.
“I’ve got to go do my job.”