(Lokken accepts his gold medal.)
Canoeist Zach Lokken (Durango, Colo.) kicked off the 2013 season with a gold medal at the 2013 Pan American Slalom Championships in Union de Tula, Mexico, March 2-3. Kayaker Aaron Mann (Bethesda, Md.) added to the medal tally by claiming silver.
Lokken and Mann were joined by kayaker Rick Powell and Head Coach Silvan Poberaj.
Lokken finished ahead of 2012 Olympian Sebastian Rossi of Argentina and Canadian Cam Smedley. The competition was very tight between all C-1 athletes as they were switching places through both heats and Semifinals. Lokken started a little slower on the first run of the Heats. In the end, he improved from run to run and handled the pressure of starting last in the Final very well.
Rick Powell, 2012 U-23 World Championship Bronze Medalist, performed very well in the heats and won the heats with over 2.6 seconds ahead of the best Brazilian, Taques. Powell finished in sixth place.
On the Final day, Aaron Mann had one of his best performances of his paddling career. Mann was first after his Semifinal run, ahead of Argentine Bersinger Thomas. In his Final run, Mann was not able to improve his performance, however, and was passed by Thomas, who turned in an error-free run.
All in all, the event was well organized and well attended. In addition to Team USA's strong performance, Brazil, Argentina, andneighboring Canada are also becoming a force in slalom and already have a number of internationally very strong athletes.