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Members of the Brazilian team at the 2012 Canoe Slalom World Championships give their coach, Guille Diez-Canedo, a thumbs up during practice Monday in Wausau. / Jeff Starck/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com

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Shopping at the Wausau Center mall, swimming at hotel pools and hiking up Rib Mountain are just a few of the ways some of the world's best young canoeists have been spending their free time this past week.

The 2012 Canoe Slalom World Championships begin Wednesday, but athletes across the globe arrived a week ago to scout Wausau's whitewater course and prepare for the competition. Practice is limited to two hours a day, however, and athletes and coaches have been searching for ways to occupy their time.

For many athletes and their coaches, this was their first trip to the United States.

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"Everything is like you see on TV and in the movies, the cars, the houses, the food," said Guille Diez-Canedo, a 29-year-old coach of seven athletes on the Brazilian team, while watching practice Monday. "They are living the American dream."

Pedro "Pepe" Goncalves, 19, was one of the Brazilian athletes who stocked up on trendy clothes at Hollister and electronics at Best Buy in Rib Mountain at prices far less than he would pay back at home. Goncalves, who competed once before in the U.S. in North Carolina, said he enjoyed having a course in a downtown setting close to shopping and restaurants.

"It's amazing in America," Goncalves said.

Walks to the top of Rib Mountain were a popular way to spend time for teams from Spain. The team from Great Britain spent part of the weekend bowling, while the Swiss swam and played beach volleyball.

One young Russian canoeist said his training schedule has limited his sightseeing to The 400 Block of Third Street.

"We spend a lot of time in our room," the Russian athlete said before his non-English-speaking coach urged him in Russian and with gestures to get back into the water to complete his practice runs.

Every athlete must eat, and some relished spending their time gobbling up American staples such as pizza, tacos and Chinese take-out. Most athletes said they liked the food and the vast quantities served at restaurants compared with their home countries.

Adam Burgess, 19, of Great Britain said he enjoyed the access to Mountain Dew, though he admitted he is trying to show restraint before the competition.

"I've got to take a crate of the stuff back with me," Burgess said.

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