Ken Padvaiskas- A chance conversation leads to B.C. and the Olympics

Ken Padvaiskas began paddling in Quebec. After competing at the Junior World Championships, he found himself at a crossroads: go on to college in Quebec or try to achieve his senior team goals. As luck would have it, his father had a conversation with Hugh Fisher. The next thing Ken knew he was in B.C. paddling on Burnaby Lake. Two Olympics, several senior wold championships and too many great memories too count later, Ken still resides in B.C.

Here is his story in his own words.

Ken-PadvaiskasLike many kids who get involved in paddling I was lucky enough to grow up within cycling distance of a canoe club. I started my paddling adventures in 1982 when at the end of grade 7 someone from the Chateauguay Canoe Club came by the school and let us know about the summer fun to be had down at the river. I joined that summer with some of my friends and was lucky enough to be exposed to a great program with excellent coaching and lots of other kids all having a great time enjoying the water and learning how to stay upright in a boat.

Fast forward a few years and in 1985 I was fortunate to make the Junior World Canoe Team which traveled to Castel Gandolfo, Italy. This was my first exposure to international competition and needless to say it was a fantastic experience. Again a common theme with great people from the athletes to the coaches really made the whole competition enjoyable and sparked a desire to begin more formal training to see if I could make the Senior team and continue to paddle at the highest level.

A few years later with graduation from high school in grade 11 looming (in Quebec) I was at a crossroads with regards to my paddling career. Staying in Quebec and continuing on to college would have made training more difficult and probably would have meant an end to my Senior team aspirations.

Enter Hugh Fisher who was at a competition I was in at the end of 1987 and a chance conversation with my dad. Hugh mentioned that there was a group of paddlers in British Columbia who trained out of Burnaby Lake and that it would be a good opportunity for me to focus more on my training. A quick decision was made and within weeks I was enrolled for grade 12 at Richmond Senior Secondary and was off to live with my uncle in Richmond so that I could train with the group at Burnaby Lake. Many thanks to Hugh.

The Burnaby Lake group consisted of Senior National Team kayak paddlers Don Brien, Colin Shaw and Hugh Fisher. Drew Mitchell, Peter Liljedahl and others also made up part of the canoe portion of the group and pretty much every day through the winter months would get dizzy doing laps around the lake.

This particular group made training fun and the hard work and many kilometers paddled would serve me well in the spring of 1988 when the first Olympic Trials were held at the Center Island course in Toronto. In the 500m K-1 final I came first! In the 1000m K-1 final I was third! Both were fantastic results for me and proved the benefits of year round training on the water.

Subsequent years saw an influx of paddlers to Burnaby Lake making it the training hub for the men’s kayak team for the next six years. I made Burnaby my club from 1988 until 1993.

My paddling career included 1985 Junior worlds, 1988 and 1992 Olympics, 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1993 Senior World Championships as well as all the Canadian Championships spanning this time frame. There are far too many great moments to pick just one but one thing that will always stay with me is the great sense of community in the paddling world and all the opportunities the sport has to offer.

I am currently in my 23rd year working for the Government of British Columbia in Merritt for the BC Wildfire Service. I have found that my life experiences from my paddling days has served me well in being able to relate well to people in my job and life in general.

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