Kovary (L) and David at Sprint Nationals in OKC.
Zoltan David of Las Vegas Canoe Kayak Club (LVCKC) hadn’t touched a paddle in 16 years. The former Hungarian National Team member trained consistently from age 10 to 20. David, now 38, regained the urge to kayak in 2011.
Two years later and David won all four Master’s events he competed in on Sunday as Sprint Nationals concluded in Oklahoma City.
"When you are getting older, you start to look for reasons for a happy life,” David said. “I had to go all the way to when I was a kayaker, that was the happiest time of my life. I guess that’s why I went back to kayaking. Now I know – this is my life. That’s what I’m going to keep doing forever. The good thing about masters is you can do it even if you are 70 years old. You are always going to race against your own race group.”
David, who competed in World Cups when he was a teenager in Hungary, finished 3rd in the senior men’s K1 200m final. Ryan Dolan and Chris Miller - the first and second place finishers – are age 23 and 21, respectively.
“As long as I can keep up with these youngsters, I’m still going to race against the pros – a couple more years hopefully,” David said.
WHAT: 2013 U.S. Sprint National Championships – Master’s
WHERE: Oklahoma City Boathouse District in Oklahoma City, Okla.
WHEN: August 11
WHO: the best flatwater paddlers age 30 and up from across the country
Click HERE for a recap of the Senior, Junior and ParaCanoe events.
David was joined in the K2 and K4 Master’s events by his LVCKC teammate and fellow Hungarian Balazs Kovary.
David placed first among 35-39 year old kayakers in K1 200m with a time of 42.863, which was +2.797 seconds ahead of Kovary. USA Canoe/Kayak CEO Joe Jacobi, a 1992 Olympic gold medalist in whitewater slalom canoe, finished 3rd overall in the Master’s event and 1st among those age 40-44. Johan Dahl won the K1 200m distance among kayakers 50 years or older.
Ed Goldwaithe and Bee Dietz – both of Cascade and Kayak Club – finished first the men’s Master’s C1 200m and women’s 55+ K1 200m, respectively.
Heidi Henkel won the women’s 30-54 K1 200m with a time of 57.490, which was nearly 10 seconds faster than Diane Mitchell of Cascade. Charla Kanahele of Oklahoma City Riversport placed third.
David and Kovary make up two-thirds of the entire Las Vegas Canoe Kayak Club. The third member – a Cuban kayaker - was injured recently and unable to compete.
The two Hungarians started the club recently after competing for San Diego Canoe and Kayak Team at the 2012 National Championships. The two paddlers are both from Budapest and competed for Hungarian Youth National Teams. Both have lived in the U.S. for the last 10 years, although they arrived in Nevada independently of each other.
When David arrived in the States, he took a job as a truck driver and has been in all 48 contiguous states. Las Vegas was always his favorite city to drive through.
“I always liked Las Vegas,” David said. “The weather is nice, nine months out of the year, it’s perfect. We have three months that are hard, it’s way too hot. Especially for our sport, kayaking, you can do your thing all year round. Other places, you can’t really do much in January, February.”
Kovary travelled from Hungary to New York City to work in the restaurant industry. The upscale Italian restaurant he managed was opening a new location in Las Vegas and he was sent to run it. He discovered through a Hungarian social networking site that his childhood friend also lived in Las Vegas.
“It was very strange, but we were very glad,” Kovary said. “We had a similar mentality, very similar goals. Eventually, it worked out perfectly, because now we have the club already. So we are very glad to find each other and to be able to do what we like to do.”
David now owns a tanning salon, which allows him to make his own schedule. He and Kovary train twice a day, six days a week on Lake Las Vegas, a private lake in between the city and the Hoover Dam.
“It’s like paradise,” David said. “It’s 3 kilometers long and we are the only ones on the lake, so it’s always flat and nice.”
Their goal is to grow the club. They plan to purchase smaller kayaks and start training children to kayak. Eventually, they would love to host competitions.
“I know for most people it sounds crazy, like, ‘What? Kayaking in Las Vegas?’ David said. “Everybody knows it's a desert. Not many people know there is a beautiful lake that’s perfect for flatwater sprint kayaking.”
To learn more about the Las Vegas Canoe Kayak Club, visit www.LVCKC.com.
Headquartered in Oklahoma City, USA Canoe/Kayak is a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the International Canoe Federation. It governs the Olympic disciplines of Flatwater Sprint, Whitewater Slalom, the Paralympic discipline of Paracanoe and sanctions Freestyle, Marathon, Outrigger, Wildwater, Stand Up Paddle Board, Kayak Polo, Dragon Boat and Canoe Sailing in the United States. For more information about USA Canoe/Kayak, please visit us on the web at www.usack.org, on Twitter at @usacanoekayak and Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/USACanoeKayak.