by JASON GORDON
Gayle and John Easley have raised their granddaughter Chelsea Easley since she was 15 months old.
They officially adopted her two years ago.
She’s been accomplishing feats that made her grandparents proud most of her life, but nothing yet has topped what she pulled off recently.
Despite spending six months recovering from knee surgery and two concussions, 15-year-old Chelsea qualified for the International Canoe Federation’s 2012 Junior Canoe Slalom World Championships.
After two days of tense and intense racing at the United States Junior Canoe and Kayak Slalom Trials, Chelsea, of Wimberley, and another local athlete, 17-year-old Andre Sanborn, of San Marcos, qualified for the World Championships.
They will compete against more than 300 athletes age 15-18 from as far away as China, Australia, Norway and Brazil in the World Championships in Wausau, Wisconsin July 10-15.
Thirty countries will be represented at the prestigious event.
“I’m 71 years old now and Chelsea has brought new life to us,” said Gayle Easley. “We’ve averaged driving 6,500 miles to competitions around the country the past two years and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. She’s just been a delight to us.”
During qualifying rounds for the World Championships, which also took place in Wisconsin, 20 gates were positioned over the windswept, frothing, Class-4 rapids at the Wausau Whitewater Park. The 300-meter course has been challenging Olympic-bound competitors for more than 25 years.
Class-4 rapids are defined as powerful, turbulent and having the ability to flip a raft.
Chelsea, in her first year of eligibility, fought through an injury-plagued winter training season just to make it to the trials.
On her final run, she surprised and dazzled spectators and judges alike, delivering stellar performances in both the one-girl Canoe and one-girl Kayak categories, capturing National Team positions in each.
“I started at age 10 with a race in Golden, Colorado and I had no clue whatsoever what I was doing,” Chelsea said. “But I knew I loved the sport. Qualifying for the World Championships is a very big deal for me. My next big goal is to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.”
Seventeen-year-old San Marcos resident Andre Sanborn clawed his way up through the highly competitive field, and overcame adversity which included a violent capsize halfway down one of the biggest falls, and gained a spot on the National Team in the one-person Canoe category.
On Sanborn’s final run in Kayak he hammered down the course, crossing the finish line with an elite score that advanced him into fourth place.