When you think of elite level athletes, it's not hard to envision a predatory breed comprised of equal parts superhuman physicality matched with an imposing demeanor, fearsome enough to impress the likes of Mike (Da Bears) Ditka.
26 Year old Alex McLain does not fit the latter archetype. Her cheerfully sweet disposition belies her aggressive style on the water.
Born to a sporting family, Mclain comes from paddling royalty. Her father, Rod Mclain, competed for the United States in the 84 and 88 Olympics in sprint canoe. Her mother, also an avid paddler was enroute to trying out for the Olympic kayak team as well when she became pregnant.
Her double blade experience began in the cold waters of coastal Maine in 2005 at the young age of sixteen. She soon gained comfort on the waves, tackling increasingly bouncy conditions inherent to the rocky coastline. She developed a love of the water through finding the balance of working with the energy of the waves.
She soon began racing and racking up wins in New England, including a win at the prestigious New York City Mayor's Cup. At nineteen years old she made her way to the big water of the U.S. Surfski Championships in San Francisco, finishing second in 2008 behind the venerated Nikki Mocke. The strong placing served as notice to Mclain that she might have what it takes to take her love of the sport to the next level, or at least make a go.
So in 2011 she shifted her focus towards sprint kayaking. Initially, she felt a bit like the Happy Gilmore of K1; a ski paddler messing about with sprinters. However, she soon found purchase in the sprint world, culminating in a 2014 Pan American victory in the 1000 meter in Mexico.
Currently, the ultimate goal of representing the United States in the Olympics has become her primary focus. In preparation for a run at Rio, she is on the water putting in an incredibly grueling nine hours a day for six days a week.
While fully focused on making it to the Olympics in sprint kayak, she sees a return to surfski afterwards. But as of yet, has no specific goals set beyond 2016.
Best of luck Alex-we look forward to your return to the waves after Rio.
Hometown: Stockton Springs, Maine.
Current Residence: Gainesville, Georgia (when not travelling).
Notable Wins: Pan American 1000 Meter, New York Mayor's Cup, 2nd US Surfski Championships, New England Overall Series Winner, North Shore 2015.
Club: Lake Lanier Canoe and Kayak
Field of Study/Degree: Biology
Hobbies/Interests/Feats of strength: Art, Lacrosse.