Interview: Marie-Pier Cote
We are in familiar territory for you. Where did you first start kayaking here in Quebec?
I was paddling around Quebec City and Montreal… I came up here in the north a couple of years ago, but only for slalom training. I started out at a summer camp when I was 9… I paddled down-river and slalom. I have been kayaking now for around 20 years.
How does it feel to be the only athlete here in the Grand Prix from Quebec? Is it nice to be representing your region?
At the beginning I was a little nervous because I put a lot of pressure on myself. I hadn’t paddled all winter long and it was difficult to jump right into the competition. I needed to remember I am here to have fun and to learn. I think that it is a great personal experience.
Has this been an important event in terms of preserving whitewater in Quebec?
Right now there are a lot of hydro-electrical projects here in Quebec. This event will promote our rivers as training spots and show how great they are. It will help to increase the sport and maybe if we have more people join the federation, it will give a stronger voice so that we can put pressure on the government with these projects.
What type of a reputation does Quebec whitewater have within Canada?
The reputation of Quebec is that it is a real good place to paddle. There is every type of river. In summer in fall, spring… always something to run. It is emerging as the premier spot to paddle in Canada.
How has the competition been for the woman’s division? What have been some of the difficulties?
For me it’s hard because I don’t paddle all year round. I began my paddling season one month ago… so all the big water has been a real challenge. The Grand Prix is the warm up for me this year! I am very tired now… very challenging. A lot of the athletes have a good comfort level in terms of knowing what they want to run… for me I have not established my limits yet. This makes it difficult. It has been hard courses for everyone, freestyle and racing.
Is the sport of kayaking becoming popular amongst the youth in Quebec?
At the moment it is unknown… there is only one club in Quebec City. We would like to promote the sport and create more opportunities to learn. We want kayaking to become the sport of Quebec. We want to make some camps so kids can try the sport… give some direction and supply the foundation for learning how to kayak.
What do you see as the “capital city” of whitewater in Quebec?
I am from Quebec City! There are lots of good rivers an hour away… tons of variety… it is really good. But for big-water… good surf waves… Montreal. It depends on what you want to do.
On a personal level, how important is the preservation of the Québec culture?
We are the only province that speaks in French. In Montreal and Gatineau there are a lot of people that only speak English even though they live in Quebec. It is important for me that people come here and at least try to speak French. When we go other places we always will speak in English. So when people come here why can’t they try and speak French? It is important, language is important .
Is it under attack, swallowed by English? Are the youths continuing with French?
Most of the youth speak French. They continue to learn it, but it depends on where they live. In the south… there is a lot of English. In Montreal lots of immigrants only speak English, but mostly just in Montreal. Up in the north everyone speaks French.
How has a female competitor in the GP shown the world woman paddle just as hard as men?
I think that this event can tell girls that they can do any rivers guys do. You just have to take your time to progress correctly, but at the end you can do it. Some people just want class 1/3. Sometimes guys put girls aside, but there is no need. They need to be empowered.
What has the highlight of the Grand Prix been for you?
For sure it is being with all of the paddlers. It is a long trip… 2 weeks on the road. It is very fun to be part of the whole event…good paddlers everywhere.