Hometown boy makes good at kayak team trials in Glenwood
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Just about everyone had a hug or handshake for Michael Palmer as he scaled the embankment leading up from the Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park.
The 18-year-old Glenwood Springs resident had more than a few fans on hand at the U.S. Freestyle Kayak Team Trials on Sunday, fans the hometown hero delighted by notching a third-place finish in the junior men division.
Palmer stuck a points-heavy first run that carried him to a bronze finish. He finished behind first-place Jason Craig and second-place Dane Jackson. All three junior standouts will represent the United States at the Aug. 31 through Sept. 6 ICF Freestyle World Championships in Thun, Switzerland.
Punching his ticket at his hometown water park only sweetened Palmer’s accomplishment.
“It’s my home wave,” a grinning Palmer said. “It’s the best wave in the country. It’s great. It’s my hometown.”
Even those who weren’t hometowners backed Palmer. The kayaking community being the tight-knit circle it is, the junior phenom knows anybody who’s anybody in the kayaking world.
And quite a few of those anybodies took up residence at his family’s Glenwood home over the weekend.
“Everyone is staying at my house,” Palmer said with a chuckle. “The kayaking community’s a real tight-knit community. I know everyone here. It’s a great atmosphere.”
Palmer will be making his second straight appearance at a world-level competition. He qualified for last year’s World Cup, which was also held in Thun.
“It’s back to Europe again,” Palmer said. “It’s the same river, so I know what to practice, what to work on. I know what I’m going to need to win there.”
Before that, though, Palmer will put in loads of time polishing his arsenal of moves on his home feature. From there, whatever happens, happens.
“I want to do well,” he said. “I’d say I want to get top three or win or all that, but I just want to get my ride. In any competition, I want to get my ride. If I can get my ride perfect and people beat me, there’s nothing I could do.”
Michael wasn’t the only Palmer to strut his stuff on the wildly popular Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park wave Sunday afternoon. His little brother, Paul, won the cadet division, reserved for riders 14 and under.
While cadet paddlers weren’t in the running for spots at the world championships, 14-year-old Paul didn’t seem all that bummed.
“I just wanted to have fun,” he said, echoing advice delivered by his older brother. “He just said to have fun. It’s no big deal.”
While he won’t have the chance to compete in Thun, Paul plans on making the trip to Switzerland to watch his brother compete.
“I’m going this year, for sure,” he said.
Bryan Kirk topped a loaded field in the adult men division, besting the top run of second-place Stephen Wright by 90 points. Kirk scored a 910.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” Kirk said. “It still hasn’t sunk in yet. This is my fourth time making the U.S. freestyle team to go to worlds, but it’s the first time I’ve won a team trials. I’ve gotten second at team trials before. The No. 1 spot’s pretty sweet.”
Winning the adult women competition was Emily Jackson, who coasted to victory.
“I felt pretty well with how I did,” she said. “The scores across the board weren’t as high as they could have been. [The wave] was harder to stay on. Most of us didn’t have as much time on the wave as we would have liked. Even if we weren’t all staying on I made my time worth it. It was fun to come out here and have a good time.”
Colorado Rocky Mountain School alum Hanna Farrar fell short in her bid to qualify for the U.S. Freestyle Kayak Team over the weekend.
The Dartmouth College student made, but did not advance past, the semifinals of the team trials. Farrar remains on the comeback trail after breaking both of her ankles in a kayaking accident in March 2008.
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.