Meet Jim O’Dell! Jim is the High Performance coach at Lake Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club and the Regional Team USA Dragon Boat coach.
“I started in 1999 when my daughter started the middle school program there, my daughter and I however were seated on the start/finish line (during the Olympics) for the canoe kayak finals, so that was our introduction. 2002 is when I began racing in flat water kayaking and in 2004 began with Dragon Boating,” O’Dell said. “Dragon Boating gives everyone the opportunity to compete, anyone can get into a Dragon Boat.”
Jim is married and a father, he grew up in Santa Cruz, Calif., moved to Hall County in 1992.
Through Sept. 16, the 2018 ICF Dragon Boat World Championships will be at the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue. This is the first time that the championships are in the Americas. Events are free to the public, with a fee for parking.
“I’m the Junior national coach and regional coach for team USA,” Jim said. “When it comes to Hall County the majority of our junior team is from the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club. I will tell you that Gainesville and Hall County school systems should be proud of the athletes, as well as the home schooled kids. These are some of the best in the United States.
“For the adults in 2010, we had four people that went to the world championships from Hall County, in 2012 it went up to six and it 2014 that number went to 11 and now in 2018 we have 33.”
The Dragon Boat Championships are a chance for North Georgians to get a glimpse of the second most popular sport in the world and to learn from the other countries in attendance.
Jim added, “it’s amazing to familiarize yourself with the second most popular sport in the world. It’s interesting when you look and canoeing and paddling its a Native American sport, so Dragon Boating is an extension of that and comes from Asia, of course.”
Recently, we had the chance to talk to Coach O’Dell about the Dragon Boat World Championships, his life and love of Hall County.
Q: What is your favorite restaurant in Hall County, and what do you love there?
A: “There’s not one that we don’t like.”
Q: How long have you lived or worked in Hall County?
A: “We moved to Hall County in 1992.”
Q: Who is the most interesting person you’ve met in Hall County and why?
A: “Eddie Staub of Eagle Ranch. Back in the early days I was working for Chestnut Mountain Winery, at the time, and I had the great opportunity to talk with him and just to get completely sold on his vision on what was going on down there and touring Eagle Ranch; anything to help kids is a gift from God and he’s done a tremendous job for youth.”
Q: What is something on your bucket list?
A: “Probably would be a six month trip going from Asia down to Australia, that would be remarkable.”
Q: What is your favorite music/ three bands you would like to see (dead or alive)?
A: “I would have to go with, I was a fanatic for Ferguson, he was a jazz trumpetist when I was in high school in California in the mid to late 1970s, we emulated him in our big band and got to set up the stage for him one time, which was completely cool. We got to meet the entire band and Maynard Ferguson. He sold us on modern big band jazz.”
Q: What is your favorite thing about Hall County?
A: “The diversity of things to do. You can go hiking, I love running the trails at Elachee for example and if I want to take it down a notch, I’ll hike them. There are waterfalls with a little bit of a drive, there are mountains, there’s road riding and wineries, a microbrewery. Hall County really does have a little something for everyone and of course the flatwater paddling…then again downtown Gainesville has wonderful shops and restaurants. My wife and I definitely support ‘shop and eat local.'”
Q: Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?
A: “To continue growth at LCKC and to watch our youth continue to excel in paddle sports in general. To really help the community understand and appreciate even more our paddle sports programs out there, because I honestly believe we have something out there for everyone.”
Q: What three words mean “Home” to you?
A: “Saved By Grace. Without Christ it’s hard to do anything. There is so much Christian love in Hall County.”
The Faces of Hall County is a project to showcase the amazing people that live or work in our community. If you would like to nominate an interesting person to be featured please email firstname.lastname@example.org.