Olympians celebrate local history

July 16, 2008, 3:32 p.m. (ET)

Four-time Olympian Frank Havens is just one of eleven Olympic athletes attending the Washington Canoe Club’s Olympic Open House, July 20, which celebrates the history and tradition of flatwater/sprint kayaking as well as more than 80 years of Olympic-training excellence for W.C.C.

From 8:30 until noon, attendees will absorb the greater story of the little-known niche sport while mingling with the Olympians at the Olympic-training facility alongside the Capital Crescent Trail in Washington D.C.

W.C.C. member Havens, who won the gold medal in 1952 and silver medal in 1948 and was named on of the Sports Illustrated Top 50 Athletes of the Century in 2000, demonstrates a special piece in the niche sport’s unique history.  
His father Bill Havens was part of the 1924 Olympic team when flatwater canoe was a demonstration sport, but he decided to stay home to support his wife as Frank was born.  So when Havens won the gold in 1952, he sent a cablegram to his father which read, "Dad, I won. I'm bringing home the gold medal you lost while waiting for me to be born." And Havens' history is not the only story weaving together the W.C.C and the chronicle of the sport.

“There are so many stories within stories,” said W.C.C. member and Executive Director of USA WomenCan Pam Boteler.

Also attending is 79-year-old Ruth DeForrest Colley, a W.C.C. member and the first American women to qualify for the United States Olympic Kayak Team.  Unfortunately, as part of gender discrimination and club rivalry, she was barred from competing.   Attendees will also see local three-time Olympian Davey Hearn  who competed in the sister sport of whitewater slalom canoeing.

Not only will Olympians be present but also Tony Williams, former mayor of Washington, and John Fahey, President and C.E.O. of National Geographic, will attend. Over 70 children from the downtown Washington are expected to attend the event as well.

“We want to expose our community kids to a whole new world and an appreciation for the environment,” said Boteler.

The children and all attendees can also see the Potomac River from a new vantage point by paddling on the river in outriggers and war canoes.  Attendees will view model Olympic canoes and kayaks as well as tour the facility, which displays Olympic memorabilia. The event is sponsored by My Organic Market and is an eco-friendly affair with the food and utensils recycled or made into compost.

 See www.washingtoncanoeclub.org.