Today, NPR covered the Iranian paddlers we met when we attended the US Whitewater Slalom National Championships recently held at the Adventure Sports Center International in McHenry, Maryland. If you listen to the NPR audio, you can hear our friend Matt on the PA announcing “one of our guests from Iran.”
I had a birthday last week, and with it my driver’s license expired. I learned this at 6 AM Saturday morning at Dulles International Airport as Jen and I were trying to fly home to Chicago for a family reunion. While Jen moved quickly through the security line, the security contractor (non-TSA) marked my boarding pass for further security screening and took me all the way to the last security station.
I quickly realized I was in the terrorist suspect line. There were over 50 people in front of me in the line, and except for maybe 6 or 7 individuals, everyone else was either speaking in a Middle East language or wearing a head scarf. I’m absolutely not exaggerating. I counted 6 women with headscarves, and there were two or three groups of Israelis traveling together. Some others in the group appeared to be Pakistani or Bangledeshi, and a few Malysians seemed to be present as well.
Last weekend we visited two of my oldest friends from Atlanta who moved to western Maryland last summer. Kieran is working remotely for IBM and Matt is managing the new artificial whitewater course at Adventure Sports Center International in McHenry, MD. They also manage four beautiful kids who keep them extremely occupied. After a long night of catching up, the kids woke us up early on Saturday for several hours of errands and field trips. I merely had to keep all four alive (harder than you think, and I can elaborate) long enough to give mom a quick break and then we were off to the race. Though officially opened a month to the day of the race, ASCI was hosting the 2007 US National Championships.
I was lucky to have Matt and Kieran indoctrinate me as a spectator long enough ago to have watched Matt qualify for both the Sydney and Athens Olympics. Whitewater slalom is the most exciting live sport I’ve ever watched and defies description. At first it really seems like controlled chaos. Paddlers either have a strong understanding of fluid dynamics (the science), a vocalized spirituality about how the water wants to flow (the art) , or both. Either way, they understand they can only go where the water permits, and maneuvering is about choosing the right line and hoping for the best.