By HUGH KEARNEY
SCHOOLBOY Dane Wilkinson is starting to make his mark in the demanding sport of flat-water kayaking.
Wilkinson, a student in the Palm Beach-Currumbin High School sports excellence program returned from the national titles on the Penrith Olympic course as the Australian 16 years marathon Kayak champion.
Wilkinson won a swag of medals at the Queensland titles in early March and was selected for the state squad to compete at the nationals.
Apart from the first place in the 14km marathon event, Wilkinson picked up a third place in the K1 2500m.
Pairing with a Brisbane teammate, the Elanora lad won a second place in the K2 500m and 1000m races, and a third in the K2 2500m.
Wilkinson has been training in the school's kayaking sports excellence program for about two years. He is being coached by the school's past kayaking excellence coach, retired teacher John New- ton, assisted by Tony Hoppitt.
Hoppitt said yesterday Wilkinson had impressed his coaches with his training discipline and enthusiasm.
"Dane is training six days a week normally, and often twice a day," Hoppitt said.
"At least a couple of days a week he will be out from 5.30am until 7.30am, and he does two or three weight sessions each week as well.
The thing that has really impressed Wilkinson's coaches has been the young man's attitude to the task in hand.
"The AIS at Pizzey Park (the National Canoeing Centre) has already expressed an interest in his progress and he has done some training there," Hoppitt said.
"His objective is to follow in the wake of (Olympians) Nathan Baggaley and Clint Robinson and compete for his country at the Olympics."
Wilkinson's next target is a spot in the national Under-18 team to compete at the World Championships and in the traditionally strong European kayaking theatre.