Wausau is attracting some international attention as athletes from all corners of the globe are trying to navigate the Wisconsin River in the International Canoe Federation's 2012 Jr. Canoe Slalom World Championships.
The competition runs July 10-15 on the Wisconsin River in downtown Wausau. The world’s best young paddlers under age 18 from more than 30 countries are expected to compete.
This year is also the first ever competition offering a division for those between the ages of 18 and 23. It's called U23. Bob Weller, who's one of the organizers of the competitions says, "The U23 division was approved by the ICF which has a direct correlation with the Olympics. This makes sure we have a continuation from the junior division (18 and under) to the open division." He says the open division are usually Olympic athletes who are 24 to 26 years old. This will help bridge the gap between the two levels and hopefully keep more athletes involved in the sport.
The team manager for the Australian athletes, Ordette Webster, says they make the trip every year to the competition and the love the hospitality of the people from Wisconsin.
This competition in Wausau is a step toward becoming an Olympic athlete. Webster says they actually have a 2012 Olympian on their team. Jessica Fox, will compete for Australia in the 2012 London Games. When she's done in Wausau, Webster says Fox will head straight to London.
The athletes will be paddling the river all weekend long, getting in plenty of practice before Tuesday's competition.