Thank You Jamie

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I felt strange this morning as I was observing the boys and girls in their canoes.  I was on the bridge of Troja but I was thinking about the news I had read when I woke up this morning.  One of those things you would never like to read, one of those situations you would never like to come across on a river, but ….life is made up of these things too and we have to accept them  just as we accept what we are given each day and enjoy every moment of it.  One of the legends of slaloms has left us, a man that has been someone to look up to for us for many years after  the bronze medal he won at the 1972 Olympic Games.  That is, when an American athlete jumped onto the podium, up until then occupied by Europeans and above all  Eastern Germans.  He was a 21 year old boy from Maryland  with his C1 and armed with  a great desire to paddle after his international hit at the World Cup  competition in Meran the year before.  He paddled on  up until the 1985 World Cup when 4 Americans  in their C1 s  won 4 places  out of the first 7! His idea of leaving the canoe only lasted a short time, as two years later and, due  to the 1992 Olympics, he decided to try as a twosome with Lecky Heller.  They won a silver at Bourg St. Maurice in 1987 and the first official edition of the World Cup in 1988.  My memories of them are of sacred monsters, their paddles had  handles  like those of the shovels  that are on Land Rovers for digging out the snow or the sand in the desert,  and not the classic olive ones.  I remember their typical American smiles and I can still remember their  voices, the typical English  of American westerns.  They dived into the waves of the Isere with its icy water  in their short sleeves without any fear of the cold or of the difficulties  of the river, smiling! Those were the years of great adventures on tropical rivers or in the Himalayas.  The years when we spent the winters in Costa Rica on the river Reventazon  chasing  dreams of eternal youth.  Diving into waves as big as mountains, goings through the rapids with enormous boulders, paddling down to the valleys and going up again in the  train in the middle of the jungle.
We’re in 1992 and he and his friend qualify for his second Olympic Games in the slalom.  There is no point in my saying that he was the only athlete present 20 years after the German Olympics.
The only slalom racer able to do this.  He came fourth and decided in the end to pull out,  giving rise to the legend in our imaginations  of young athletes who race after dreams of glory.
They say that he retired to a lake to write books and plan journeys to rivers all over the world.  They spoke about Jamie immersed in his thoughts and I imagined him there  at peace on the shores of a lake writing stories about us canoeists.  Then they told me that he had got back into a canoe to try to qualify with his son at his third Olympic Games.  He didn’t succeed and fell ill a short time afterwards.  The diagnosis was cancer and they gave him a few months to live.  He managed to fight it for a long time, more than could be hoped for, but the other day even the great and one and only Jamie McEwan  had to give up but without lowering his eyes, proud to be on who knows which rivers of the universe.  Dear Jamie, you will  always  be with us, I would like to have had time to thank you for all that you have  given  us with a paddle in your hand.  Thanks for your smile, thanks for having been one of us.


Translated by Teresa Burges

Occhio all'onda!

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