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Local canoers aim for Olympic gold, follow fathers' steps

8:54 AM, May 16, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- Two local canoers have gotten close to qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team, and they're continuing a family tradition in the process.

Nowadays, Eric Hurd of Woodstock and Jeff Larimer of Marietta are Olympic hopefuls, a paddling duo in the whitewater slalom canoe. 

But when they were younger, they learned to paddle along the Chattahoochee River, under the tutelage of two one-time teammates: their fathers.

"The coolest part of it for me is seeing everything come full circle," Mike Hurd said.

The international success of the two sons began with the camaraderie of the two fathers, Mike Hurd and Mike Larimer.

Technically, you could say it began with a movie.

"I got into whitewater after watching the movie Deliverance," Mike Hurd said.

That movie, of course, was filmed in North Georgia. It made Mike Hurd want to canoe; not long after, Hurd met future U.S. teammate Mike Larimer.

"When Mike and I started paddling, you couldn't get into the Olympics, because it wasn't an Olympic sport until 1992," Larimer said. "So we were doing it for fun."

They competed together for several years. Mike Larimer even went on to coach in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. As the fathers' careers wrapped up, the sons' interest in canoeing picked up. And then, by chance, the sons met along the Hooch.

Jeff Larimer recalled, "I was swimming out of my boat, which is not what you're supposed to do, but this was one of my first times paddling."

Eric Hurd picked up the story: "He was just waving for somebody to come get him, and I was just like, 'What's up, man?'"

They became friends but have only been teammates for a year-and-a-half. Nevertheless, Eric Hurd and Jeff Larimer have already skyrocketed to the head of the class of USA canoeing. They will learn next month whether or not they will qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London.

The whole thing has everyone, from fathers to sons, pretty amazed.

"It's nice to wind up at the top, but what it took to get there is what it's all about," Mike Hurd said.

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