The hashtag says it all: for one week the world was HERE in MARYLAND for the Deep Creek 2014 International Canoe Federation(ICF) Slalom World Championships. “The World Is Here” is the most unique slogan that could have represented such a large event happening in one of the most discrete parts of our state. Located in McHenry, the Deep Creek Lake area is over 3,900 acres of pure beauty and has always been a place of wonder with little recognition, but not any more. With thousands of visitors from the United States and abroad, the world has finally discovered a little place that if allowed could become an outdoor sports mecca.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Deep Creek Lake area located in Western Maryland, it is full of state parks, a mountain resort, and the largest freshwater lake in the state of Maryland. There are many features of Deep Creek that draw in crowds, but this summer it was the newly built Adventure Sports Center International or ASCI. Located at the top of a mountain- the only one of its’ kind- this venue features a 1,750 foot white water course that was perfectly suited to become the home to the ICF Slalom World Championships. During an interview with Great Britain’s C1 and C2 athlete David Florence, he explained Deep Creek as, “A picturesque setting, very natural looking for an artificial course. It’s a very nice set-up.”
This is only the second time in history that the United States has hosted this world event, which isn’t very surprising considering kayaking/canoeing is a new sport that our country is beginning to submerge into. Currently out of the 16-athletes on the U.S. team there are very few that are American born. French native Fabien Lefevre became a U.S. citizen in 2013 and is a part of the 16-man roster. A resident of Bethesda, Maryland he explained that the team is set up a lot like “the story of the U.S., it’s full of immigrants.” He became a U.S. citizen for the opportunities not only in the sport, but for his family as well. “Freedom has no price” he explains, this has a lot to do with his personal life and his creativity on the water. While apart of the American team, he has had more space and time to be innovated with his skills and “work with the water”. This past week Lefevre sped down the whitewater course to win a gold medal in the C1 event, which is the single canoe. A true “Marylander”, Ashley Nee competed in the women’s K-1 Slalom Kayak event for the USA team. Born and raised in Darnestown, Md, she attended the University of Maryland and now trains with the Bethesda Center of Excellence. She competed in two races in Deep Creek and finished top 50 in both test runs.
Not only did this event get attention from American broadcasters, but there were multiple sources of international media outlets in attendance as well. The most coverage came from the U.S., Australia, Scotland, and Great Britain. For Australia’s K1 athlete Jessica Fox this World Championship was very successful. She defended her C1 title and also added a second gold medal in the K1 event. A double gold medal in the C1 title has never happened before this year. There was a different emotion for the Brits when former defending champions Richard Hounslow and David Florence were both eliminated after day two of the C2 event. They are both hoping for a comeback in the upcoming Olympic qualifiers. This kind of international coverage is not only important for the visitation of our different Canoe sites, but it also crucial to help the growth of the sport within the United States. It may attract kids to want to participate in a sport they have never heard of before. This will increase the talent of the U.S.A. team for future generations.
Hosting this World Championship not only helped Maryland and Deep Creek get on the international tourism map, but it also showed the International Olympic Committee that we are serious about hosting the 2024 Olympic Games. The Washington D.C. area has put together an Olympic committee that have officially announced they are serious about obtaining these summer games. Western Maryland has proved they are perfectly capable of hosting an event of this magnitude with 400 athletes and staff representing 46 different countries, the plan is to not only use Deep Creek for canoeing and kayaking, but for BMX and Mountain Biking as well. For now it is just a waiting game until the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) makes their decision in January of 2015, and submits the formal bid of September of that year.