For 15 white-water slalom canoe-kayak competitors, the journey to the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, will begin in Western Maryland.
Garrett County's Savage River was designated yesterday as the site of the U.S. white-water team trials, to be held May 16-17.
More than 100 paddlers are expected to compete for the 15 Olympic slots in men's singles and doubles canoe, and men's and women's singles kayak.
"We think it's the best river in the country for having these white-water races," said Bill Endicott, U.S. Canoe and Kayak Team head coach.
White-water competition returns to the Olympics for the first time since its debut at the 1972 Munich Games. The event in Spain will be held on a man-made course constructed in Seu de Urgel, a town near the French-Spanish border.
"We think this is a reasonable approximation of the Olympic course," Endicott said. "The paddlers like the Savage River, and they're accustomed to competing there."
Garrett Community College will act as the official host of the U.S. trials. The school is creating an organizing committee and will soon begin a search for 350 volunteers.
"We're hoping to get tickets on the market before the end of the year," said Don Storck, Garrett CC's director of planning and institutional research. "We're targeting between 8,000 and 10,000 spectators maximum during the two-day event. We're going to try and create an Olympic spirit at this event."
Garrett CC officials were among those who helped stage the 1989 World Championships at the Savage River. School officials put together and then guided the winning Olympic trials bid past rivals from Wausau, Wis., South Bend, Ind., and the Ocoee River in southeastern Tennessee.
The canoe-kayak event will be the first of three Olympic trials staged in Maryland in 1992. The rhythmic and artistic gymnastics trials will come to Baltimore Arena on June 6-14. The fencing trials will be held at Hagerstown Junior College on June 6-13.