IT HAS taken a tragedy for Alyce Burnett to realise life is about "living large".
The death of fellow Maroochydore surf club member Matt Barclay at last year's national lifesaving titles proved a defining moment in the life of the sprint-canoe princess.
The 20-year-old - generally regarded as the country's No.1 young female talent in the sprint canoe - had worked closely with Barclay in her role as the club's youth development officer.
There was initial emotional upheaval following the teenager's death, but Burnett said an improved version of herself emerged from the turmoil.
After narrowly failing to make the London Olympics team, she returned home to the Sunshine Coast from her stint on the Gold Coast and changed coaches.
Physically and mentally stronger, Burnett blew away the competition at last month's Grand Prix 3 regatta in Penrith.
She remained undefeated while winning all five of her events to earn selection in Australia's team for the ICF Under-23 Canoe Sprint World Championships in Canada in August.
The big question now is whether she can become a dominate force in the open ranks.
That may be answered when the Australian Canoe Sprint Championships start in Perth today.
The regatta doubles as a selection trial for the world championships, which will be held in Germany after the under-23 titles.
Head national women's sprint coach David Foureur said a "hungrier" Burnett had emerged this season.
The athlete agreed.
All roads hopefully lead to the 2016 Rio Olympics - and the journey starts in earnest this week.
"I'm turning 21 this year, I've finished my (journalism) university degree - everything is coming together," she said.
"Over the next four years I want to really make my mark … I'm in a better frame of mind since last year.
"I suppose that (Barclay's death) really rung home to me to live every day like it's your last.
"As the saying goes, life is short, live it large.
"Going by that, in the last year or so I've really turned the corner in my athletic career and everyday life."
Foureur said Burnett - who won the under-23 K1, K2 and K4 500m and the K1 and K2 200 at the Grand Prix 3 in Penrith- had a "relaxed, fantastic attitude".
"I see it in her eyes that she wants it," he said.
Other Sunshine Coast paddlers competing in Perth include Olympian Rachel Lovell, Hailey McGinty and boom youngster Bill Bain.
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