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Brett Heyl, 26: Whitewater Slalom
2008 Pan-American Champion; 2004 Olympic team member

Heyl was a competitive ski racer long before he ever picked up a paddle; he plays a lot of soccer, tennis, hockey, and baseball too. Not surprising, then, that he seeks out variety in his workouts. “If I were getting paid a million bucks a year, I would see kayaking as my job,” he says. “But I’m not, so I have to enjoy it. I try to find a balance, to keep my interest, and sometimes that means running and spending more time in the gym and less in the kayak.”

During a race, Heyl says, a bit of self-delusion also comes in handy. “At the end of the course, I’m nearly finished. The long slog’s over. At that point, I can talk myself into stepping it up, since I only have 20 seconds of hard paddling to the finish line. So throughout the race, I just convince myself to go all out for those last 20 seconds—over and over and over again. I try to make my stubbornness work for me.”

Next: Willow Koerber: Mountain Bike Racing

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