Etienne Stott MBE, who partnered Tim Baillie to an historic first ever GB canoe slalom gold medal at the London 2012 Olympics in the men’s C2, announced his retirement from the sport today.
“For over twenty years I have considered myself to be a slalom canoeist and it is time for me to announce the end of a huge chapter in my life,” said the 37-year-old.
I consider myself both extraordinarily fortunate to have reached this point, and to have the full array of choices before me to take my life forward– Etienne Stott
Winning the sport’s biggest prize came after Stott dislocated his shoulder in 2011 threatening to destroy his dreams of even reaching the Olympics. But typifying his resilience and fighting spirit he achieved the unthinkable by bouncing back to win gold.
In what should have been a celebratory 2013 for the pair, the season ended abruptly when Stott sustained a more serious dislocation during a World Cup tour event in the Spanish Pyrenees, this time to his other shoulder.
Later that year Baillie decided to retire but Stott, feeling he had another Olympic campaign within him, worked patiently to recover fully. A year later he teamed up with Mark Proctor.
“If we focus exclusively on the journey aspect then the other things will take care of themselves,” said Stott at the time they announced the new partnership.
With just over a year to prepare for Rio team selections the pair made up for lost time but the dream of competing in Rio ended at Lee Valley last autumn when David Florence and Richard Hounslow won the team’s qualifying spot.
Unsurprisingly, Stott views his Rio campaign year as time well spent and another opportunity to learn from life and improve himself both as a person and athlete.
Steadfastly philosophical in a career which has been anything but smooth, Stott’s mental strength has been a constant.
By his own admission, he was not a natural at the sport. In fact he goes as far to say that he was “uncoordinated, un-athletic and could barely swim” when he began canoeing with St Andrews Scouts on the River Great Ouse near his home town, Bedford.
“When I started getting into competitive slalom at Viking Kayak Club in the early 90s, I truly and naively believed that I would be a multiple Olympic and World Champion...it was just a matter of time and some training,” he said.
“Looking back at my young self, I’m sure I displayed no sign that one day I would be an Olympic champion and a consistent world-class competitor.
“In the end, I got to become an Olympic champion just once, but I now know the true efforts required.”
A man of boundless energy who wore the unmistakeable mask of intense determination each time he raced, Stott has worked on other talents since London 2012.
He has become a captivating commentator, media pundit and is an engaging character at a seemingly endless run of public appearances.
A never-say-die attitude makes Stott a valued team member who will be sorely missed.
I’m looking forward to watching my teammates grow into legends, perhaps more so as people than as slalom athletes– Etienne Stott
Although the removal of the men’s C2 event from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic cycle is a significant factor in his retirement, he knew instinctively that now is the right time to begin a new chapter and discover what lies beyond.
“Although I have won an Olympic gold medal at a home Olympics, I am sincere when I say that I value my journey in canoe slalom so much more,” he said.
Whilst the future is still something of a blank page, Stott does intend to stay involved in canoeing recreationally, whilst focusing his attention beyond sport: “My ambition is to help more people realise their potential, so I want to build on my knowledge gained during my career.”
Stott is quick to acknowledge the many people that have helped him along the way, paying full tribute to them in his latest blog. But two he grew closest to during the long hours together in a boat were Tim Baillie and Mark Proctor.
“It is almost impossible to express the gratitude that I feel for Tim. A truer gentleman, friend and awesome person it would be hard to find - a man who voyaged alongside me through an amazing portion of my life. We grew and we flew together.
“And to Mark, my second crewmate: We forged a team and a friendship which taught me so much more than I expected.
“He has had to be so brave and tough bumping along with me on that famous Road to Rio. I will be eternally grateful that he took on the commitment of becoming my crewmate. We did something quite amazing together.
"From the beginning in the Scouts, to my final C2 sessions, I have had the most amazing good fortune in being around people who gave me their knowledge, their energy and their time and it would have been impossible to do all this on my own,” said Stott.
“So to all those who have contributed to my journey so far, I thank you from the very bottom of my heart. You will always be a part of me, you will always be with me.”
Said British Canoeing’s Performance Director John Anderson MBE: “Etienne has been a wonderful athlete and ambassador and we thank him for all he has done for our sport in the UK.
We wish Etienne and his wife, Georgie, every success and happiness in the future– British Canoeing’s Performance Director John Anderson MBE
To read Etienne’s latest blog visit: https://etiennestottcanoeslalomblog.blogspot.co.uk/