Most kids at 14 aren’t focused on their future, but then most kids aren’t nationally recognized athletes.
But Petri Nicholas Alva is the exception. He’s a kayaker from here in Rohnert Park and in August he competed and won eight medals at the ACA Sprint Kayaking National Championship in Oklahoma City. That’s quite an accomplishment for a boy that just entered high school.
“It’s kind of surreal honestly. It’s not what we had intended,” said Tanya Boone-Alva, Petri’s mother. “I had no idea that he would end up on a racing team and that he would be this driven. I mean, goodness gracious. He’s only 14 and already the fastest kid in the nation at the 200’s. That’s...that’s pretty cool.”
Pretty cool is right, especially considering that neither Petri nor his mother set out to enter the sport. It happened by accident when Petri’s brother, Zachary Alva, asked his mother if it was ok to take the then 11 year old Petri out kayaking. Boone-Alva was understandably nervous about letting her children out onto the water, and so insisted they take a class.
“Three years ago my brother wanted to go out and try kayaking, so he went to this camp and brought me along,” said Petri. “Once he got into it he took off. I was like, ‘Oh wow, he’s going really fast! I want to go fast with him!”
After the first taste of kayaking, both Petri and Zachary were hooked. As the older of the two, Zachary was a role model for Petri and he encouraged his younger brother to delve deep into the sport.
“We bounced off each other. I trained and then he trained more so I wouldn’t catch up. We have this little game going,” Petri said. “We were pretty close before, but now we’re a lot closer. He’s faster than me but we can still train together.”
That kind of encouragement and competition is important for the development of any growing child and for an athlete it’s doubly so. With a sport like kayaking that requires such high degree of coordination, it’s best to form those connections while young, according to Biology of Sport. Athletes that begin training young have a higher predicted performance over athletes that begin training later in life.
That’s important because Petri isn’t content with simply competing at the national level.
“Next year I have a chance to make it on the Olympic Hopes team. The top athletes from across the country go on a small team and then they race somewhere in Europe. If I keep training at this rate I might be able to go.” Petri said. “That’s the ultimate goal for kayakers: to paddle in the Olympics. The last time a kayaker medaled in the U.S. was in the 1980’s. It’d be pretty amazing forty years later to go and win.”
Of course, no dream happens without support. Participating in national competitions, traveling to qualifying races, and even registering with the Olympic Hopes all takes money. If you’d like to help Petri realize his dream you can contact him at, firstname.lastname@example.org.