Reluctantly taking up kayaking to help with paddling for surf lifesaving, Alyce Wood quickly fell in love with the sport.
It was a rapid rise for Wood. After taking up the sport in 2008, Wood made her first junior representative team in 2009 and won her first international medal in 2014, bronze in the K1 500 at the Under 23 World Championships.
Since then, Wood has gone on to represent Australia at her first Olympic Games in Rio 2016 and became the K1 1000 World Champion in 2017, her first World Championship Title. Her sights are now set on the Tokyo Olympics after gaining selection earlier this year.
“It has been a roller-coaster. We had our selection events a week before the 500 people coronavirus gathering rule, so we just snuck them in. That period was very stressful. We both did what we wanted and needed to do by winning our events,” Wood said.
By ‘we’, Wood is referring to herself and her husband Jordan Wood, who is also an Olympic and World Champion kayaker.
“Jordan and I were both provisionally selected for the team, we hit the performance measures put in place,” the Sunshine Coast junior said.
“We were a non-discretionary pick but had to wait for the legalities to through. While we were waiting for all that, the AOC (Australian Olympic Committee) announced they weren’t going to send Australia to the Olympics, then the IOC (International Olympic Committee) said they were postponing the Games a few days later.”
“Despite doing what we needed to do to, we were wondering if we were still going to be on the team. It was a bizarre feeling.”
It was a nervous time for both Alyce and Jordan as they awaited the final ruling on their selection.
“When they announced that the athletes who were selected for the team this year would remain on the team for next year, we were relieved as our spot was secured,” Wood said.
“We have been through everything in terms of emotion. But now, were both thriving. It feels bizarre to say we are thriving. It’s weird to be on a team for an event that’s 15 months away.”
Most athletes have found the postponement of the Olympics has allowed them to train differently to how they usually would at this time of the year, it has been no different for Wood.
“I have never been so sore in my life because I have been doing exercises that I don’t normally do. It’s actually been great.”
“Jordan and I can chill out and enjoy training together. We never can train and paddle together or hit the gym together. We have been able to enjoy each other’s company,” the 27-year-old said.
“Despite being in the same sport, the men’s and women’s programs don’t train together much because we are at such different speeds. Trainings sort of align though so we are home at similar times, but the men travel overseas a lot more than the women for some unknown reason, coaching preference maybe?”
“A lot of time we aren’t together, so that’s hard. But because we both understand what each other is going through, we know what each other’s training schedule looks like plus I know what a session he is doing feels like and vice-versa, that side of it is great.”
It has also allowed Wood to focus on family time and spend time with Jordan away from the sport.
“We are both born in August and despite being together for eight years, we have never celebrated his birthday together and have only celebrated my birthday together a couple times due to tournaments being around our birthdays. This year we will get to celebrate them together. Little things like that we are really appreciating,” Wood said.
Wood sees huge positives for her racing and fitness with the Olympics being delayed and believes she can build a strong foundation over the next year.
“This time has allowed me to rejuvenate, which will be a good opportunity leading into Tokyo. We don’t have to go through that selection stuff again and we can just focus on that main goal,” the 2017 K1 1000m World Champion said.
“Normally, we would have Olympic selections and only get a few days off because we need to get straight back to it. There’s usually the World Cup followed by the World Champs a month or two after, so you never actually have an opportunity to chill. Once you finish the World Champs there’s other international races, then you come home and its the domestic season.”
“This is a really good opportunity to recharge the batteries before we have the biggest race of our lives. It’s a huge positive,” the Gold Coast local said.
It has been a tough period for all sporting organisations, but Wood has sung the praises of Paddle Australia.
“Our sport has been really supportive. They don’t have a lot of money, but they try to help their athletes as much as they can, where they can. I never felt like I was lost thanks to the great direction of the sport,” Wood said.
“They have given us pretty good direction about what to expect around upcoming training and racing. The international season has been completely cancelled. We know we are probably not going to have a race until the next domestic season in December.”
There has been no lack of motivation for Wood despite racing being months away and having to take control of her program in the early stages of lockdown.
“We will go from December racing to an Olympic prep. As an athlete you should be able to self-motivate and be accountable no matter what, this is just another thing to be accountable for. We are all still fit and ready to go,” the Olympian said.
“Obviously most people’s ultimate goal is to qualify for an Olympics and to stand on top of the dais, which is something I also aspire to. But whether this happens or not I just want to finish my kayaking career with no regrets, knowing I gave it 110%.”
Story: Daniel Hill, WSA Content Creator