Szeged, Hungary, marks the place a 16-year-old Chickasaw youth will compete internationally for the first time.
Situated near the border of Serbia and Romania, Szeged is a long way from Chickasaw Country. But the trip will shine an international spotlight on a Chickasaw whose dream is to become a U.S. Olympic athlete.
Joshua Turner, of Mustang, Oklahoma, and his teammate, Dylan Puckett, will compete in the 200-meter two-man kayak event at the 2014 International Canoe Federation July 17-23. They will be competing in the Canoe Sprint Junior World Championships.
“Joshua has come a long way in a relatively short time since he first began paddling in 2011 as part of the Chickasaw Nation Canoe/Kayak Program,” Shaun Caven, director of canoe/kayak and head coach of the OKC Riversport Team, said.
The Chickasaw Nation has partnered with OKC Riversport to create the Chickasaw canoe/kayak program. The tribe underwrites the program for Chickasaw youth, such as Joshua, to participate in summer camps, lessons and OKC Riversport youth kayaking team.
“It’s very encouraging to see how well he and Dylan are doing to be heading to junior worlds, and demonstrates to our younger athletes and incoming team members they have everything they need here to succeed if they put in the effort,” Caven said.
“Without the support of the Chickasaw Nation, Joshua wouldn’t have started kayaking, and he wouldn’t be preparing to compete at the junior world championship,” Joshua’s father, Jerry Turner, said. “We’re so proud and so blessed to be Chickasaw.? “When you have a child excel in sports it’s a wonderful feeling. Being 16 years old and having the opportunity to compete for the USA is not something he could have done with baseball.”
Joshua’s enjoyment of kayaking stems from his desire to improve and his camaraderie with his teammate.
“When I first tried kayaking, the sport really clicked for me and I thought ‘Hey, I might be good at this,’” Joshua said. “It feels good to be on the water; to feel the sensation of the water splashing you. I see water in a different way now. Every body of water I see, I wonder how fast I can kayak across it.”
The more time Joshua spends in a kayak, the faster he gets. He went from a ninth place finish at the USA Canoe/Kayak Sprint National Championships in 2012, to third place at nationals in 2013, to qualifying for the national team in just eight months.
“Dylan and I have already gone faster in the two-person boat than he and his partner did last year, and we’re shooting to improve on that, to bring home a medal,” Joshua said. “Kayaking means you’re not just out there doing it for yourself, you’re trying to do your best for your partner, too.
“I’m so glad for this opportunity. Without the sponsors of this program, I don’t think I’d be where I am now. I can’t thank the Chickasaw Nation enough.”
“When we began the Chickasaw canoe/kayak program we knew it was possible to see Chickasaw youth making strides toward the Olympic podium,” Mike Knopp, executive director of the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation said. “We’re extremely proud of all of our athletes, and to have Joshua and Dylan represent the USA at international competition this year is so gratifying to everyone who’s believed in and supported the development of the Boathouse District and the Oklahoma River.”? Joshua’s partner is returning for his second junior world meet and is excited to compete with his OKC teammate.
“I remember seeing Joshua kayaking a few years ago and I noticed right away he had really good technique,” teammate Dylan Puckett said. “In the past, I’ve been partnered with athletes from another club, which meant we had limited practice time together before international competition. Joshua and I will be training together from now until July, and our boat gets a little better, a little faster, after every practice session. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do together.”? “Joshua’s mother and I have enjoyed seeing him mature into such a responsible, respecting young man and we believe he’s learning so much of that from his coaches and the athletes he trains with each day,” Mr. Turner said. “We’re extremely proud of him and look forward to watching him get better and better and become a contender for the Olympic Games.”