by Russ Owens
STEVENS POINT (WAOW) - 16-year-old Hailey Thompson has literally been around whitewater canoeing her entire life.
Says Hailey Thompson, "It's funny because both of my parents actually met doing this, their first date was going over a 20-foot waterfall."
She's certainly taken to her parents sport and recently Hailey went overseas earlier this month where she competed for her country in whitewater canoe, visiting places like Spain, Czech Republic and France.
Says Hailey, "It was sort of the equivalent of an Olympic experience because of all the nations competing, it was just really surreal and I really enjoyed it."
Not only did she compete against the best in the world, but she beat many of the best in the world. After taking a couple of top 15 finishes in two International Canoe Federation World Cup events, Hailey took third overall at the Junior World Championships.
Says Hailey, "When I realized I had a medal, I just lost all sense of reality, it just sort of was awe."
And that third place finish, the only podium finish from any competitor from the U.S.
Says Hailey, "It was pretty exciting for me."
Says Jean Thompson, Hailey's mom, "It's a world championship medal and it's like nothing I've ever seen, so we were really thrilled for her."
While most competitors have coaches helping them along way at these events, not so much for Hailey as she is pretty much self-taught, serving as her own coach so-to-speak with a little help from her parents.
Says Jean Thompson, "Her dad and I just give her the best advice we can, she pretty much makes the decision on the line she's gonna run, if she asks me, sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn't."
Says Hailey, "It's really wonderful to know that I have such a supportive family, because I know without that, it wouldn't have been a reality at all."
Hailey is already looking forward the 2012 Junior World Championships, that's when the event will actually come right here to central Wisconsin in Wausau.
Online Reporter - Russ Owens