By Audrey Esther, News9.com INsite Team
Oklahoma's first major canoe and kayak event will soon take place in the metro. The 2008 sprint canoe and kayak Olympic trials will take place April 19-20.
On Wednesday afternoon, busy volunteers put the final touches on what's sure to be an Olympic-sized event in Oklahoma.
"To have the Olympic rings on our river is a big honor," said Mike Knopp, executive director of the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation.
About 100 of the country's top canoe and kayak athletes will compete in Regatta Park.
"It's a milestone for us as a community to be able to have an actual Olympic-related trials event in Oklahoma City," Knopp said.
Competing well in Oklahoma is crucial for athletes who wish to compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Current Olympians Carrie Johnson and Jordan Malloch not only want to compete again on the Olympic level, this time they want to medal.
"This is a definite real possibility," Johnson said. "And that's very, very exciting."
"This time the goal is to get a medal," Malloch said. "In addition to just qualifying and going."
More than 600 volunteers helped set up the three-day event. Organizers say they hope more than 20,000 spectators will attend.
"With the Beijing Olympics coming in August it really makes us connected to the Olympic Games," Knopp said.
Controversy surrounding China's human-rights record has some demanding the United States boycott the summer games, but Malloch disagrees.
"There's no question that the U.S should compete in the Olympics. My hope is that they don't use the athletes as pawns," he said.
Johnson says participating in the 2004 Athens's opening ceremonies was a highlight of her entire experience.
"I think that's something that shouldn't be taken away from any athlete," she said.
The next chance for athletes to qualify for the summer Olympics is the Pan-American Championships this May in Canada.