The last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind! Three weeks ago I was nervous as anything, laying in my hotel room waiting to race at the Olympics. It had been a long wait, we were competing on the second to last day of the games and had been watching Team GB’s astonishing success for the previous two weeks. We really wanted to be a part of it.. The heat and semi-final didn’t go so well, we were late out of the blocks both times and struggled as a consequence. We made it to the final though, so it was all to play for. The finals day was an atmosphere I have never felt before, and maybe never will again. So much buzz around the course and huge cheers for all the GB athletes. Liam and I had the pleasure of watching Ed Mckeever win the first ever 200m gold medal in kayaking in the Olympics. A tremendous performance, which raised the roof! This was for us a little bit of extra pressure, however it also provided confidence as we train day-in day-out with Ed so we knew the training must have been working.
We felt composed before the final, nervous but in control. The roar that greeted the announcement of our names was spine chilling and further sealed our determination. We had conferred about how to improve our start for the final and executed perfectly, having seen the video replay we really got out better than anyone. The rest of the race was a complete blur, after so much training you are pretty much on autopilot.. We crossed the line and I didn’t have a clue where we finished, after it was confirmed we had the bronze medal, I pretty much lost it! I hammered my paddle down on the deck in celebration, snapping it in half, but I couldn’t have cared less! After so much preparation and years at the top level of the sport, it was a huge relief to feel we had represented ourselves to the best of our abilities and come away with an OLYMPIC MEDAL!
After the race I was pretty much floating around, from interviews, to the podium, more interviews, greeting the wonderful Eton Dorney supporters and games makers, more interviews and finally a reception with friends and family at our hotel. This was the first time to catch up with a few of the people who supported us on the day and for the whole of our careers. I would like to take this chance to publicly thank a small number of people who have helped both directly and through their inspiration over many many years. This isn’t an exhaustive list, there are far too many people to name, I’ve been so lucky to have been involved with great people ever since I started canoeing aged 10. I appreciate your help and guidance so much.
Alex Nikonorov. My coach. I think the whole of the 200m squad owe their careers to this man. He believed in us and set out a very clever and sensible training program, which gave us a head start on the world in 2010 and has continued to help us progress ever since. Most importantly he gave me back the belief and confidence in my abilities, which had completely disappeared in 2009. He deals with us with respect, trust and gives so much effort day to day over the whole year. He also deals with me when I’m sullen or difficult and manages to get them best out of me in the end.
Tim Brabants. Tim may not realise it, but he has been an inspiration, trailblazing the path for the GB team and demonstrating what is possible for a British paddler to achieve. More than this, he has demonstrated how to do it, with rigorous application to training, determination, single mindedness and discipline. When i joined the sprint squad in 2007, it was clear he was a step ahead in his personal conduct and this brought home the results he deserved. These results have carried the team over my whole career and have ensured the funding, which has been key to our success, continues. He has had a tough fight to get to London, facing the bane of every athletes career, Injury. He fought through and performed with distinction in London, which I hope in years to come he will realise was an achievement in itself. He will always be an Olympic champion, the trailblazer and superstar in our sport. His Beijing performance was the best 1000m I have ever seen and no one will forget that. I hope his injury worries are behind him and we will see many more years of top performances from Tim.
Ed Mckeever. Having a training partner this fast always helps, nothing is tougher than racing Ed and we have to do it quite often! He deals well with my ups and downs and is going to be a great ambassador for our sport. Joining Tim hopefully he will massively raise the profile of kayaking in this country. Thanks for keeping us honest and helping us both fulfil our potential!
My Dad (Peter). My parents have both been very supportive, however it was my dad that drove me around the country and Europe from the first weekend I started racing, pretty much non-stop for the next decade. It’s not easy to succeed in this sport without parental backing, and my dad went beyond the call of duty. He ended up running the sport of wild water racing for many years, providing many others with the opportunities I enjoyed. I’m very proud of him for this. He continues to support from the sidelines and take many great photos.
My first coaches. Simon Moore for introducing me to paddling for fun. Jon Royle and Ben Nelson for taking me on at a young age and giving me the belief to be the worlds best. Kevin Bowerbank for taking me to the next level and giving me the training plan I needed to progress, also an indispensable source of knowledge and advice over the years. Jonathan Folland, took me to the top of the world in wild water racing and taught me so much about myself as an athlete. He dedicated so much time and thought to me and I really appreciated it.
The wildwater racing family. These guys have been my second family and basically looked after me and ensured that I grew up okay! In no particular order and apologies to anyone I forget! ; Jes and Jo Oughton, Jamie Christie, Alan Tordoff, Simon Wright, Stuart Smith, Nigel Jones, Pete Keron, Richard Forbes, Grant Anderson, Michael Mason, Neil Blackman, Miranda Churchill, Robert Knebel, Tomas Slovak, Robert Pontarollo.
Katherine Ready. Katherine is the team physio and by far the best physio I have had the pleasure of working with. In no small part she got me through the last two years in one piece. I’ve no doubt I would have struggled without her help and understanding.
Liam Heath. Pretty obvious one really! He’s just the best front man I could have possibly dreamed of! He is far more than just a paddler though, he is a great guy who puts up with me all year round and makes the the day to day life a pleasure.
Rachel Cawthorn. My long suffering girlfriend! She does such a great job keeping me on an even keel. I’m so lucky to have her in my life and its also an inspiration seeing her day to day application to training. She is possibly the most talented athlete I have ever known, I mean this even though I’m often in very illustrious company! She has the ability to take on the world and I’m sure with renewed confidence she will go on to do this.
Finally all my friends outside the sport who have supported my lifestyle and kept my feet firmly on the ground for so many years.
We spent the last couple of days of the games in the Olympic park doing various bits of media and enjoying the closing ceremony, which was epic! It was such a buzz to be involved with the closing ceremony of an Olympic Games and really brought home not just what we accomplished but what he had had the pleasure to experience. The games makers and the organisers of the games have done such an unbelievable job of putting together a perfect Olympics and making absolutely everyone feel welcome. It was our pleasure to compete in it and you really don’t get the plaudits you deserve!
I’ve had a bit of time off since the games, visiting friends and family and having a short break down in Cornwall last week. I also had the pleasure of joining the Clitheroe Torchlight procession. Samantha Murray (silver medallist in modern pentathlon) and myself traveled around the town on the back of a pickup truck greeting the local townspeople and showing off our medals. The Olympics was such a nation-wide effort that it really felt right to be sharing the medals and the enjoyment they bring with the people of the town which where we grew up. It was also a pretty cool experience being in front of such crazy fun crowds, despite the traditional Lancashire drizzle!
Now I’m heading off to Portugal to compete in the Nelo kayaks Summer Challenge Surfski race. Nelo have been our biggest supporter for a number of years now, we appreciate their amazing boats, work ethic and hospitality. Can’t wait to get to the event as its going to be amazing times.. Then hopefully I’ll be getting around the country a bit more, catching up with friends who I haven’t had the chance to see for such a long time and then taking a long holiday!
Thanks again GB for a phenomenal Olympic games, I’ll never forget it!