When the 2012 Olympic Games roll around next summer, Scott Parsons will have the benefit of two previous Olympic experiences. As a member of the USA Kayak team, Scott had a 6th place finish in Athens in 2004, a 15th place finish at the 2011 Slalom World Championships, and has already earned a 2012 Olympic roster spot for Team USA.
“Scotty, as he’s called by his friends, is one of the most loved paddlers in the USA. There is certainly a lot to like about him. His paddling style is a combination of the strength he has earned from years of training and the technical grace that makes him so fun to watch.”
“Scotty is one of the sickest athletes I’ve ever met. He has literally been at the top of the paddling game for over a decade. And have you seen Olympic-level whitewater slalom? It’s full of crazy instantaneous power, ridiculous positions, and brutal anaerobic loads.”
I recently had the privilege of catching up with Scotty and learning a bit more about him:
How much time out of the year do you spend competing in or training for kayak events?
My year is entirely dedicated to training for or competing in whitewater slalom events. If I have a day with no kayaking, it almost certainly means I am training out of the boat or am enjoying a planned rest day.
Outside of kayak, do you participate in other sports?
Outside of slalom, I have competed in a few running races as well as shorter biathlons and triathlons. These competitions were essentially part of training for whitewater slalom.
I understand that you spent some time with CrossFit. What was that experience like?
While I have never attended an “official” CrossFit session, I was participating in “the workout of the day” a couple of years ago with friends of mine as part of out of the boat training. Despite the appearance of being a total upper body sport, whitewater slalom is most definitely a full body sport. Core strength and stability are essential in being a successful slalom racer. It’s CrossFit’s focus on total body strength and stability that make it great cross training for all types of kayaking.
And more from Kelly Starrett:
“For a world class athlete to find CrossFit literally means that they will be able to extend their careers by many years.”
What are the biggest factors in being consistently great at slalom kayak?
From my perspective, the biggest factors in being consistently great at whitewater slalom are the abilities to avoid distractions and maintain focus on the task at hand. While some slalom athletes are clearly more skilled than the majority, most of the top athletes are all of a high skill level. The athletes that separate themselves from the majority are the ones that have the mental capacity to deal with the pressures and distractions that arise at big competitions.
What does your training program look like (both on the water and other)?
My training plan varies depending on the time of year and proximity to competitions. The winter months see a lot of strength and aerobic work as well as technique improvement. Speed, or quickness, mental preparation, race simulation, and lactic capacity are focuses of the spring time. The summer months are spent racing and mostly maintaining fitness and improving technique. Typical race seasons end in September and I take two to three weeks to recover from the season then start the winter base training in early October.
Are most kayak athletes supported via sponsors or an organization that helps to promote the sport?
People who are involved in whitewater slalom typically are because they love it. Generally it is difficult to find sponsors wiling to financially support slalom athletes because of our relatively small exposure, despite being one of the most popular sports at the Olympic Games. Our national governing body, USA Canoe/Kayak, and the US Olympic Committee do provide some support, though even with support from those organizations, slalom athletes usually don’t even break even each season.
What are you hopes and expectations for 2012?
I hope to make the 2012 Olympic Team, which would be my third Olympic Team, and put myself in a position to win a medal in London at the Games.
What is your diet like?
My diet is fairly normal. I try to eat foods high in iron, protein, and fiber. I have had some contact with nutritionists over the years but I don’t have the personality or desire to be on a specialized diet. I do, however, make sure that I eat the right types of foods before and after workouts in order to maximize quality and improvement.
photo credit: USA Canoe and Kayak
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