This study aimed to profile the physiological characteristics of junior sprint kayak athletes (n = 21, VO2max 4.1 ± 0.7 L/min, training experience 2.7 ± 1.2 y) and to establish the relationship between physiological variables (VO2max, VO2 kinetics, muscle-oxygen kinetics, paddling efficiency) and sprint kayak performance. VO2max, power at VO2max, power:weight ratio, paddling efficiency, VO2 at lactate threshold, and whole-body and muscle oxygen kinetics were determined on a kayak ergometer in the laboratory. Separately, on-water time trials (TT) were completed over 200 m and 1000 m. Large to nearly perfect (−.5 to −.9) inverse relationships were found between the physiological variables and on-water TT performance across both distances. Paddling efficiency and lactate threshold shared moderate to very large correlations (−.4 to −.7) with 200- and 1000-m performance. In addition, trivial to large correlations (−.11 to −.5) were observed between muscle-oxygenation parameters, muscle and whole-body oxygen kinetics, and performance. Multiple regression showed that 88% of the unadjusted variance for the 200-m TT performance was explained by VO2max, peripheral muscle deoxygenation, and maximal aerobic power (P < .001), whereas 85% of the unadjusted variance in 1000-m TT performance was explained by VO2max and deoxyhemoglobin (P < .001). The current findings show that well-trained junior sprint kayak athletes possess a high level of relative aerobic fitness and highlight the importance of the peripheral muscle metabolism for sprint kayak performance, particularly in 200-m races, where finalists and nonfinalists are separated by very small margins. Such data highlight the relative aerobic-fitness variables that can be used as benchmarks for talent-identification programs or monitoring longitudinal athlete development. However, such approaches need further investigation.
Oliveira Borges and Coutts are with UTS: Health, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia. Dascombe is with the Applied Sports Science and Exercise Testing Laboratory, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia. Bullock is with the Physiology Dept, Australian Institute of Sport, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia.