Australian canoe sprint coach Jimmy Owens believes the rock-solid friendship of Ken Wallace and Lachlan Tame has been a key ingredient to their Olympic medal success in Rio.
Tame and Wallace won bronze in the K2 1000 on Thursday, barely three years after coming together as a combination.
Owens was instrumental in the decision to pair sprinter Tame with the canoeing workhorse, Wallace, and the combination returned immediate results be winning consecutive World Championship silver medals.
“The journey when it first started, getting them together, was a tough one to be honest,” Owens said after the bronze medal performance.
“But they were great mates from the start, and even right to the end today, they’re great mates again.
“They’ve shared a tremendous journey. To go through three major competitions, two World Championships and an Olympic Games, and stay on the podium like that is fantastic and a real credit to their mateship and their commitment to each other, I’m really proud of them.”
Owens said despite his protestations, Tame has developed into a formidable 1000 metre paddler.
“People always come back for more when they say they hate it, because they want to get better at it,” he said.
“He’s a tremendous athlete, we know that from his single ski titles in surf lifesaving, and that’s not a 30-second event, that can go up to four or five minutes.
“We know the endurance is there, we just need to hone it for kayaking. The journey I started with Loccy was just about telling him how he’s just got to do the strokes, and he’s never forgotten that and that’s important in where he’s at today.
“He’s developed the strokes for kayaking and that’s been fantastic for his development in the boat. Kenny’s leadership and knowledge with the sport has really shaped him as well for this boat.”
Owens is excited about where Tame and Wallace have come from, and he’s also excited about where they might go in the future.
He said the relationship the pair have built together can only strengthen their race performances.
“You couldn’t get a better pairing in regard to how those boys can work together,” he said.
“They really lift each other, motivate each other, keep each other honest. They work for each other so it’s wonderful to see that.”
He also has no doubt about the endurance of Wallace, who announced after the K2 that he would like to keep paddling until Tokyo in 2020.
That would give the Gold Coast lifesaver four Olympics, and Owens said if anyone can achieve that record, it’s Ken Wallace.
“The guy’s just driven, he’s really driven,” he said.
“He’s not done yet, he wants more, he enjoys the sport, he’s really found his passion for this sport over this quad, and that’s important.
“If you don’t have the passion you really can’t fire in training and in your deliverance. That’s been something Kenny has always had, his passion to deliver for himself, let alone the people around him and the support staff, how much he wants to help everyone.
Owens is also quietly confident the new-look K4 1000 combination of Wallace, Riley Fitzsimmons, Jacob Clear and Jordan Wood will do Australia proud.
“We’ve had a perfect prep, like the K2 today, it was a perfect prep,” he said.
“I believe that we are there, I believe we can defend that medal.
“I’ll be damn proud if the boys put out the perfect race for themselves, and if they come eighth, I’ll be proud of them, but I know we’ll be in that race and I know that we’ll give that gold medal a run for its money.”