Athletes compete for Olympics at U.S National Whitewater Center


by AMY COWMAN / NewsChannel 36 Staff

Posted on June 21, 2012 at 3:31 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Athletes were busy Thursday canoeing and kayaking their way towards the summer games at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte.

It is the first stop for athletes in the Whitewater Canoe and Kayaking field to qualify for the London Olympics this summer, so the center is in the national spotlight, showcasing the top notch facilities in Charlotte.

"To have this many people come in that otherwise on another weekend wouldn't come here, it's great exposure for us brings a lot more people," said David Hepp, paddle sports manager at the U.S Whitewater Center.

Locals took time out from their daily lives to enjoy the day and get a front row seat to watch the Olympic excitement.
"We just lead the simple Charlotte life and it's good to see a spectacle, so we're looking forward to it," said park visitor Frank Fesette.

From locals volunteering, to out-of-towners cheering on loved ones competing, Olympic fever was everywhere at the U.S. Whitewater Center.
Visitors got to cheer on Hepp, who not only works as paddle sports manager at the Whitewater Center but is also competing with his canoe partner for a run at the Olympics.
"If we made the Olympic team it would be awesome," added Hepp.
After professionally competing for years in the two man canoe, Hepp and his partner lost out on the 2000 and 2004 Olympics by one spot, so they figured with trials here in Charlotte on their home course, why not give it another chance?
"This is a lot more fun this go around.  [I] try not to get too worked up, which is kind of hard once you get real close to it, so we're taking it for what it is," said Hepp.
And he’s enjoying having the excitement on his home turf.
About 90 men and women will compete through Saturday. If they make it through the trials they have one more round in England before they could go on to compete in the Olympics.