Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Nico Tonozzi’s waited almost a year for this.
Last summer, the Glenwood Springs High School senior-to-be turned in the performance of his young life at the U.S. Freestyle Kayak Team Trials in Missoula, Mont. A high finish in Big Sky Country secured Tonozzi a spot on the USA Freestyle Kayak Team for the 2011 World Freestyle Kayak Championships in Germany. Later this month, Tonozzi will pack up and head overseas.
At long last.
“It’s incredible,” the 17-year-old said. “I never would have gotten to experience Germany otherwise. This is such a cool experience to be able to travel and kayak.”
Tonozzi, who will compete in the junior division, has been busily paddling away at Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park to prepare for his European kayaking adventure.
He’s also found time for competition, participating in the recent Yampa River Festival in Steamboat Springs. This weekend, he’ll test his skills at the Teva Mountain Games in Vail.
“It’s going to be scary,” Tonozzi said. “There’s no junior division, just freestyle kayak men’s. I’ve never competed with people of that caliber. They’re probably going to be significantly better than the people at Worlds, just because there are so many. Teva really does draw international competitors.”
Though it’ll no doubt be a humbling experience, Tonozzi knows it’ll be one that makes him better.
“That’s part of the reason I’m doing it,” he said, “just to embarrass myself and get better.”
Ever since he first started kayaking as a 10-year-old, all Tonozzi’s done is get better. He hails from a family of river rats and has spent his whole life on the water.
“We do a lot of boating,” he said. “I’ve been rafting my whole life and my dad has kind of always been into kayaks.”
Tonozzi said he gravitated toward the competition scene a couple years ago. He made major strides last summer, competing all over the country while traveling by RV with fellow junior competitor Lauren Burress and her family.
This summer, he’s gearing up to travel with his own family. Nico’s mother, Merne, his father, Chris, and 13-year-old brother Leo are all Germany-bound as well.
“It’s turned into a family vacation,” Nico said with a smile. “I’m really excited to see Germany just because it’s going to be a different culture, a different atmosphere. I’m excited to get to see that, and to meet the people.”
As for the competition, which opens with a ceremony in Plattling, Germany, on June 20 and wraps on June 26, Tonozzi’s goals are modest.
“I’ve been trying to make my goals personal rather than based on other people,” he said. “I’m trying to make a score of like 500 points. If that puts me in the finals, great. If that puts me in second to last, that works, too.”
He’s certainly been putting in the work, spending substantial time at the local wave fine-tuning his repertoire of tricks.
“I can do most of the tricks,” Tonozzi said. “The thing is practicing them and making sure I stay in wave 100 percent of them. That’s what I’ve been working on most days, just sticking them.”
Whatever Worlds fate awaits, Tonozzi is confident he’s put in the necessary work.
“It’s going to be tough competition,” Tonozzi said, “but I feel confident that I’ve done what I can do.”
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