Mid-Pacific kayaker focused on Olympics


Schonna Lindscneck

Kali Wilding racing towards the finish line in Slovakia

Danika Kusumoto , Staff Writer

Racing across the finish line in ninth place at the Olympic Hopes Regatta, Kali Wilding realized the hours of training and early mornings were worth it. 

“I know it’s not winning, but I’m stoked with the result,” Wilding said.

 Wilding, a junior at Mid Pacific, won two ILH kayaking championships and participates in competitions all over the world, recently competing in Slovakia. She returned from her overseas competition on September 17, placing ninth in the K1 200m Final A.

She practices 10 to 11 times a week, training both before and after school at the Ala Wai.  Her partner, Ten Kusaka, describes Wilding as focused and confident in her abilities as an athlete.

“When you’re in a boat together, it’s like all the hard work you did is for someone else,” said Wilding.

Before she started kayaking, Wilding competed as a gymnast for 11 years. Wilding said she didn’t always appreciate the work put into kayaking.

“Seeing that we’re actually getting better and the hard work is paying off, that’s why I started [kayaking],” Wilding said.

Wilding recalled seeing a kayaking billboard in Slovakia, acknowledging the lack of kayaking presence in America.  In 2011, the Olympic kayaking team lost funding from the United States Olympic Committee, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.  The team still participates in competitions but must pay out of their own pockets.

“When I make teams, I’m going to have to fund myself going when most of the other countries get paid for,” said Wilding.

She plans on kayaking throughout college and wants to go to the Olympics, which America will host in 2028.  

Wilding said she hopes to help build up the program and bring back funding for the sport on multiple levels along with fellow athletes on the US team and their coaches.

“They’re trying to work with the governing body to make it more known and a bigger sport [with] better funding so that it can just keep growing,” Wilding said.

Shelley Oates-Wilding, the mother and coach of Kali Wilding, said she has found it difficult balancing these two major roles in her life. 

“Being her coach and mom from a young age has been a challenge sometimes, as I do try to treat all my students the same and I sometimes forget to give her that one special hug when she does do well,” said Oates-Wilding.

A piece of advice Oates-Wilding has given Kali which she feels contributed to her happiness and success reminds Kali she controls how she feels and perceives everything.

“It will always work out if they are true to themselves, and know I will always love them,” Oates-Wilding said.