Valdenice Conceiçao do Nascimento at National Training Center, São Paulo
Currently excitement and infatuation has been engulfing Brazil due to the FIFA World Cup, yet the tropical Portuguese-speaking country is home to another notable sports scene – canoeing and “The Paddle in the Park”.
The Paddle in the Park event, held over four weekends in January 2014 at Ibirapuera Park, hosted hundreds of individuals per day to try out canoe ergometers and promote single blade canoeing in Brazil. The event was part of the celebration of São Paulo’s 460th birthday. A partnership between the Brazilian Canoe Confederation and Globe (the largest network in the country), the event was run voluntarily for the people visiting the park. Heros Ferreira, International Coach and Coordinator of the Department of Sport Science for the Brazil Canoe Federation, saw this as an opportunity to not only promote canoeing, but to spur more women and girls to give it a try in a dry-land setting.
WomenCAN International (WCI) had the privilege to interview Heros Ferreira, M Sc. PhD, one of the key masterminds behind Paddle in the Park.
WCI: We saw some great photos by JMendes Photovideo on Facebook. It looked like everyone was having fun! Do you think canoe ergometers can help promote and develop canoeing (single-blade) in Brazil and around the world - particularly for girls and women?
Heros: Without doubt, the [KayakPro] ergometers were and are fundamental to the success of these events. In particular, [ergometers are necessary] to explain and demonstrate the feel of real paddling. In our case the vast majority of participants were women, which is quite rare in [this] high performance sport!
WCI: Do you have more events like this planned for the future, and in other parts of Brazil?
Heros: Yes, we have other events like this in Sao Paulo. We serve an average of 300 people a day in the park. We intend to do other activities like this in September in the city of Curitiba .
WCI: How many people tried out the ergometers at the Paddle in the Park?
Heros: The event lasted for a total of eight days, split across four weekends with a total of 1220 individuals participating. Around 76% of the individuals were women, including children, adolescents and adults.
When asked if female canoeists are using the canoe ergometers for training at clubs around the country, Heros explained that there are only fourteen ergometers total in Brazil, though they would love to invest in placing a canoe and kayak ergometer in each of the major clubs. He asserted that though canoe paddling development is most common in the Bahia region of the country, it is crucial to develop in all regions. Of course, they need resources to do that.
WCI: Most of the top female canoeists are from Ubaitaba and Itacare. Do they have access to these ergometers?
Heros: Unfortunately, all of the Brazilian Confederation ergometers are kept in the national training center [Sao Paulo], therefore only the athletes in training or within the area have access to use them. It would be great to have one or two ergometers in the Bahia region, [for] it would undoubtedly increase the volume of athletes.
WCI: What are the pros and cons of using canoe ergometers for training and/or technique development? Is it harder or easier on the body than being in the canoe on the water?
Heros: The pros are infinite: [it] is stable, replicates the sensation of navigation, ease of use. For younger athletes [I] believe it is an excellent option of learning. In older and experienced athletes, [I] believe it is a great way to address the technique and performance. Unfortunately, there is virtually no scientific study based on the use of these ergometers. We are developing research and we found no other studies to discuss, as well as the exact specifications of the [testing protocol]. Therefore, all the data gathered is for the improvement of training, not for science.
Hero stated he uses the KayakPro VirtuaRace software, which has a 3D simulation similar to a video game at a park. This proved to be a complete success. “It was a feeling, it was really cool! Complete success, boys and girls paddling.”
WCI: Many older canoe ergometers were very rigid and stable – they did not move. We noticed that KayakPro developed a sliding platform. What does this do for the athlete on the ergometer?
Heros: The ergometer is amazing for training and paddling due to the feel of the motion, I like the how the ergometer mimics the natural motion of paddling on water. Overall I really like this ergometer, more than its competitors. It would be very interesting if we could take advantage of the Olympics and have more of these.
WCI: Does the kneeling platform move from side to side or wiggle to simulate the unstable environment of being in the extremely canoe on the water? Is that important?
Heros: I've seen some prototypes of this type of ergometer, which swung sideways too. I find it very interesting—anything that might resemble [the true movement in a boat] is best for the athlete. Especially for beginners, where we train the technique, [go] back, repeat. [We can] touch and correct the parts where they make mistakes, which is unable to occur on the water.
WCI: The canoe stroke is different from the kayak stroke. For canoe, a big part of the stroke is the downward force you apply to the water by dropping your weight on the paddle. Does this ergometer allow the paddler to apply downward pressure?
Heros: Yes, the ergometer allows one to do this, however the application of the force in the ergometer seems to be greater than the force acting on the paddle from the water. We know that the initial phase generates more power over time, but the ergometer requires more force in the pull through the same motions and movements. I do not know whether it is problem with the upper metal pulleys, or if the rope is too thick .
WCI: We noticed you did a lot of V02 max testing. Have you seen improvement in paddler’s V02 Max scores with the new KayakPro ergometer?
Heros: Yes, we did a lot of analysis previously using Dansprint [ergometers]. But the software did not allow many options in the mechanics of paddling. With KayakPro we performed many metabolic gas analysis tests, but never got to the maximum as the proposed test is 4 minutes at most. To reach VO2 max one would need to go into exhaustion. We use the [KayakPro] ergometer in physiological and biomechanical assessments with image analysis. We analyze para-athletes, as well. I cannot tell you if there was an improvement because it is KayaPro or not, because we did not have many other ergometers before. I know we're improving a lot with them, technically and physically.
WCI: What can we expect from Brazil’s female canoeists in 2014?
Heros: Unfortunately we still have very few young girls training in canoe. I am currently living in Curitiba and would like to start a female team with canoes and kayaks. We have many people in Brazil, a large volume of water and rivers and canoeing is very rare. I hope we can [perform] very well in the Pan-American Championship.
WomenCAN International notes that currently there are about 20-25 women and girls actively paddling canoes in Brazil, with more young girls trying canoe. However, fewer women and girls participate in national competitions because they cannot afford the cost to travel. The good news for 2014 is that two U23 female canoeists will compete in the 2014 ICF Junior & U23 Canoe Sprint World Championships July 17-20 in Szeged, Hungary. The Brazil Canoe Federation will also send three female canoeists to the Senior World Championships in Moscow, Russia, August 6-10. One of these athletes is 25 year old speedster Valdenice Conceiçao do Nascimento, who participated in the Paddle in the Park and has trained at the Sao Paulo training center on KayakPro ergometers.
Thank you Heros for all the work you are doing to promote Canoeing in Brazil and supporting the advancement of Women’s Canoe! And thank you KayakPro for your leadership and commitment to sport performance excellence and your passionate service to elite and recreational fitness enthusiasts both.
Meet the Author: Gabi Yankelevich. WomenCAN International Representative and a biochemistry/pre-medicine student at Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, USA. A member of the cross country, indoor, and outdoor track and field teams, she is interested in highlighting women's accomplishments and additions to sport's history.