Navigating the Buddy System

Richard Powell, 19, and Casey Eichfeld, 18 paddle the two-man canoe for the U.S. Whitewater Slalom Olympic team. They spend time training in McHenry, Md., before heading to Beijing for the 2008 Summer Games.Video by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post
By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 18, 2008


Rick Powell and Casey Eichfeld compare paddling together in a two-man canoe to a marriage.

On a recent afternoon at the Adventure Sports Center International's man-made whitewater facility, Powell and Eichfeld sounded like bickering spouses as they argued about their first encounter at Fiddler's Elbow near Harrisburg, Pa.

"He kept riding up on my stern," Eichfeld said.

"I was 6," Powell shot back.

"You were being annoying," Eichfeld replied.

"I was being 6," Powell said.

Theirs is the perfect relationship for the double canoe, or C2, as it's known in the sport.

"It's all about synergy," said Matt Taylor, executive director of ACSI who competed in C2 at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics. "A really good C2 doesn't talk on the water at all because they can't hear each other. . . . You can tell a C2 is in trouble when they're talking."

Taylor said that historically, the best C2s have been brothers -- and sometimes twins. Powell and Eichfeld agreed their relationship is similar to brotherhood. Powell rides the bow. Eichfeld takes the stern.

"It's a lot of understanding each other and feeling comfortable," Eichfeld said. "A lot of it comes from muscle memory."

"That X-factor is significant," Taylor said.

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