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Kayaker shares Olympic stories

Phil Sandoval

CARBONDALE ” Chris Ennis will always look at what he experienced as a competitor at the Summer Olympic Games was memorable. But his description of what occurred behind the scenes in Athens, Greece, drew the most attention.

Ennis qualified for the games by scoring enough points in a three-race kayaking series, which included the 2003 World Cup along with U.S. team trials.

“I finished in 14th place,” he said. “That gave me enough points to make the Olympic team.”

In the Games the native of Raleigh, N.C., competed in the men’s C-1 slalom.

Ennis’ recollections in a slide presentation at Colorado Rocky Mountain School on Tuesday varied from how the athlete from other sports looked at one another, what security was like, his reaction to the opening ceremonies, and what food athletes preferred to eat in the Olympic village cafeteria.

“One of the amazing things was meeting all the other athletes,” Ennis said. “And when we talked to them, we found out they were just people like us.”

Ennis said he found most of the other Olympians open and easy to talk to.

“Everyone realized they weren’t anything special,” he said. “Everyone I met was really open and was excited to talk, too.”

And Ennis got to know many of the biggest U.S. stars by name at the Olympics. Among those Ennis talked with frequently were beach volleyball star Misty May, tennis star Andy Roddick and members of the U.S. women’s soccer team.

About the only U.S. team members who were not open were the members of the men’s basketball team, Ennis said.

“They were too focused and didn’t want to talk much,” he said.

When it came to security, Ennis said the athletes were safe, but, they were given a lot of latitude on where they could go.

“Security was all for show. Our credentials got us into anything,” he said. “If the Greek security team saw the ‘AA,’ which meant athlete ” you got in.”

One of those events Ennis was involved in was walking in as a U.S. team member at the opening ceremonies.

“I never heard that many people cheering as I did when we walked out of the tunnel,” Ennis said. “I felt like it was an out-of-yourself type of experience.”

McDonald’s hamburgers quickly became the food of choice for most of the athletes.

“They had all kinds of food in the cafeteria. But, each day the line for McDonald’s kept getting bigger. Toward the end, no one would be at the other side of the cafeteria.

Everyone was eating McDonald’s,” he said. “A lot of the (team) coaches weren’t too happy about that.”

Ennis, 28, said he’s going through a transition as an athlete. That’s one of the reasons that drew him to CRMS: “I wanted to see what the school was all about,” he said.

And, the Carbondale school does field competitive boys and girls kayaking teams, which could satisfy both his desires.

“I’m not sure if I’m going to stop competing,” he said. “I still enjoy racing. But I want to teach.”


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