Making it onto the Australian national team has been a long time coming for Perth canoe sprint paddler, Daniel Bowker, and now that he’s there he’s enjoying every minute of it.
Bowker, who left his beloved Western Australia to move to the Gold Coast to increase his chances of Australian selection, has been turning in the best performances of his life in the K1 1000 at the opening two World Cup sprint events in Europe, just missing out on the A final on both occasions.
He’s racing like a man who has had an enormous weight lifted from his shoulders, which he has. He’s got the ticket to Rio safely tucked away in his back pocket; all that’s missing is confirmation of which event he will be competing in at the Olympics.
28-year-old Bowker is part of a very strong Australian 1000 metre team. Jacob Clear and Murray Stewart were part of the gold-medal winning K4 1000 team from London; Lachlan Tame and Ken Wallace are two-time K2 1000 World Championship silver medallists; and Riley Fitzsimmons and Jordan Wood are World U23 K2 1000 gold medallists.
With Stewart also likely to be the K1 1000 competitor in Rio, it makes for interesting times for Bowker.
“I’m told no final decisions have been made on the K4 and while I believe I can bring a lot to the crew, the current combination is clearly working very well, with a gold and silver at the first two World Cups,” Bowker said.
“I don’t envy the people that need to make the decisions but I figure if I can keep improving in my K1 the way I have been, and showing that I’ve got more than a bit of ticker, then if the time comes that I get a chance in the boat I’m sure I can gel with that combination and make it go as fast as it is, if not faster.
“Should I not get a start in the K4 then it’s very likely I’ll line up in the K2 200m with one of the other 1000m men, which is obviously a much shorter event than the 3.5 minute race I have been training for.”
Bowker said the final decision means someone is going to end up disappointed.
“The decision, which ever way it goes, will be a bitter pill to swallow for whoever it is that ends up missing out,” he said.
“But in a 1000m squad with such great depth and such lofty goals, not everyone is going to come away with a big smile on their face.”
“But that’s sport and the journey so far has been memorable.”
Bowker has approached World Cup 3 this weekend in Portugal with a lot more confidence after the opening two events.
“Despite coming into World Cup 3 yet to make an A final, my semi finals from the first two World Cups are two races I’m extremely proud of,” he said.
“While I didn’t get the placing I needed in either race to progress to the A final, I was able to execute my race better than I ever have. I think this is a testament to the training squad I’m a part of.
“Training every day and pushing myself against the whole squad, and the support of the rest of the service team creates an environment where you simply can’t not get better.”
And paddlers that Bowker has spent many years watching on television suddenly no longer hold any fear for him.
“Measuring my performances against the world’s best, I’d have to say I’m closer than I thought I would be but still with lots of work to do,” he said.
“It’s been a great experience lining up against and in some cases pushing some of the fastest guys in the world all the way to finish line.”
“But I suppose what makes them the best is despite how close it may be, they still cross the line ahead of the next guy.”