France’s Nouria Newman, top, and Lucie Baudu compete Sunday during the 2012 International Canoe Federation Junior & U23 Canoe Slalom World Championships at Wausau’s Whitewater Park. / T’xer Zhon Kha/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com
Organizers for the canoe and kayak world championships in Wausau said the event went without a hitch, thanks to the help they received from local, national and international volunteers.
The 2012 International Canoe Federation Junior & U23 Canoe Slalom World Championships that wrapped up Sunday at Wausau's Whitewater Park attracted more than 450 athletes from 27 countries from across the globe, dozens of coaches and support staff members, and thousands of spectators. This was the first world championship event held in the U.S. since 1994, when the competition also was held in Wausau. The event also marked the first world championship race ever to include a new U23 competitive class for racers younger than 23.
Karla Westcott, who managed the competition, said hundreds of volunteers worked together to make the event a success -- and some traveled a great distance to do it.
"There were a lot of Skype calls, a lot of things we planned well in advance, but it all paid off. Everything has gone extremely well," Westcott said. "The Italians decided only to send their U23 competitors, so a couple of their younger team members came anyway, just to volunteer."
Daniel Lauriola, 18, of Ivrea, Italy, is one athlete who made the trek to Wausau to support his teammates by volunteering as a fore-runner -- someone who tests the timing of a course before the races begin.
"This was a way for me to be a part of this, to help out, and to spend time with my team and my family," Lauriola said.
Lauriola's grandmother Carolyn Linsenmayer of Fort Wayne, Ind., traveled to Wausau to be with her grandson. Linsenmayer also volunteered for the event, handing out healthy snacks to hungry athletes.
"It's a beautiful city, a beautiful area. I like to volunteer anyway, and this kept me close to my grandson for the weekend," Linsenmayer said.
Donovan Wewege, 18, is a member of the South African paddling team who placed 29th in the K1 men's juniors category. He said his mother and sister came to watch him race, and both volunteered throughout the event in numerous ways.
"They need a lot of help to make this all happen so smoothly. It's just so massive," Wewege said. "My family, though, they're like my team managers in a way. It's great to have them here."
Westcott said many volunteers were from the Wausau area -- folks who just wanted to be part of the fun and excitement of the races. Sylvia Erickson of Wausau, who volunteered all weekend selling T-shirts and other Wausau merchandise, said she loves to watch the races, even though she's never been in a kayak herself.
"I'm retired -- I can do all these great things. I just really enjoy volunteering," said Erickson, who also regularly volunteers as a therapy-dog handler for Aspirus Wausau Hospital.
The economic impact of the event is huge. Officials for Wausau Kayak/Canoe Corp., the organization that sponsored the competition, said the event generates an estimated $1.5 million for the Wausau area. Though the site for each annual event is determined years in advance, Westcott said she is hopeful the event will someday return to Wausau.
"It's good for the community, good for the athletes. It's just been a phenomenal week in every respect," Westcott said.