Outside magazine, August 1996
By the time the evacuation order was announced at tennessee's Ocoee Whitewater Center on April 21, the afternoon sky was dark as night and the winds were gusting to 50 miles per hour. Scott Shipley, the 1995 K-1 (one-person kayak) world champion, searched for his parents in the downpour that interrupted this first World Cup event of 1996. But instead of mom and dad, Shipley ran into Oliver Fix, the 23-year-old German who is his fiercest rival. "Hop in my car," he told Fix. "I'll be right back." Shipley, 25, soon returned with his folks in tow; the foursome passed the next two hours in carefree fashion, chatting in his minivan.
Known for such a "what, me worry?" demeanor, Shipley--winner of the last three tune-up races on the Ocoee's man-made Olympic course--seems to be bearing down. Barring miracles or tragedy, he should breeze to the gold. The competition for silver and bronze will be a hotly contested all-German affair, as Fix tries to fend off surging countryman Thomas Becker.
In the C-1 (one-person canoe) competition, the Ocoee's rough-and-tumble conditions favor the aggressive style of 26-year-old, punk-rock-loving Czech pediatrician Lukas Pollert, who won the event in '92. Nipping at his stern is 17-year-old Slovakian wunderkind Michal Martikan, the bronze medalist at the 1995 world championships. That said, experience is on the side of 37-year-old American David Hearn, who won a second world championship last year, a decade after his first. Since he's due for some good fortune--a week after being arrested for paddling the flooded Potomac last January, he was forced to outrun a landslide that decimated his winter training base in Costa Rica--look for Hearn to squeak out the gold.
Meanwhile, the Polish duo of Krzysztof Kolomanski and Michel Staniszewski, 1995 world champions, enters these Games as the prohibitive gold-medal favorite in C-2. But don't be too surprised if either the stalwart French team of Frank Adisson and Wilfrid Forgues or the up-and-coming Czech pair of Miroslav Simek and Jiri Rohan makes a race of it.
Finally, in the only women's whitewater event, K-1W, the odds-on favorite is 25-year-old British paddler Lynn Simpson, the defending world champion, whose determination has made her virtually unbeatable the last two seasons. Giving Simpson a serious run, however, will be the 1993 world champion, France's 34-year-old Myriam Fox, who is back from a yearlong maternal hiatus. Kathy Hearn, David's 38-year-old sister, who won the world championship in 1979, would normally be a long shot for a medal, but the home-river advantage gives her a chance for at least a bronze.