With winter drawing to a close, our canoe slalom high performance programme athletes have been preparing for the busy season ahead, which kicks off with the all-important British Senior and U23 selection trials at Lee Valley White Water Centre over the Easter weekend 15-17 April.
Athletes have been making the most of training at home and abroad, as well as some of them taking the opportunity to test themselves against their southern hemisphere counterparts in New Zealand and Australia.
At the end of January there was success for Ryan Westley taking C1 gold and Joe Clarke K1 silver at the Oceania Championships in New Zealand. It was then on to the Penrith Whitewater Stadium, competition venue for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, to join the wider British training group, before contesting the Australian Open.
There was more good news for GB when David Florence scooped gold in the men’s C1, with teammate Ryan Westley narrowly missing out on a medal in fourth. Joe Clarke continued his rich vein of form to take K1 bronze, with Bradley Forbes-Cryans also posting a strong run in the race to finish in fifth position.
Whilst back at home there was C1 gold for Eilidh Gibson at the British Universities and Colleges Sports Championships.
Looking forward to the season ahead Paul Ratcliffe, Canoe Slalom Head Coach said: “After an incredible Games in Rio last year we are focused on realigning ourselves and taking our time to develop the programme for the next four year cycle. 2017 is year one and just a stepping stone and we have a highly motivated group of senior, U23 and junior paddlers to work with which is really exciting.
After some hard graft at Lee Valley in the cold weather at the start of the year, we have been venturing out to warmer climes to get some quality training under our belts.– Paul Ratcliffe, Canoe Slalom Head Coach
“The women’s group have been in Dubai and the majority of the men’s group have been in Australia. We are re-grouping in early March for a full squad training camp in Pau, the venue for this year’s World Championships. It will then be the final run in to the selection trials where all the athletes will battle it out to represent Great Britain this year and we would love for the public to come along and support them. Lee Valley is a fabulous venue and there is nothing better than to see the place buzzing.”
The 2020 Olympic cycle also sees one significant change for the slalom community. The hugely popular canoe double (C2) event in which Great Britain has done so well over recent years, with gold and silver in London and another silver for David Florence and Richard Hounslow in Rio, replaced by the women’s canoe single (C1).
Ratcliffe continued: “We are gutted that the C2 class has now fallen out of the Olympic programme, but on the flip side really excited to have gender equity across the sport and the introduction of the C1 women for Tokyo is an amazing opportunity.
We have a cracking group of women on the programme who will all be fighting hard for that one C1 place in in Tokyo, with Mallory Franklin, Kimberley Woods, Eilidh Gibson and Jasmine Royle all having won World, European and World Cup medals over the last few years.– Paul Ratcliffe
“We are developing the support programme around them to ensure we are fully prepared and already their skill levels are phenomenal. But we are under no illusions that many other countries will be targeting success in this new event too, so it is our job to try and stay ahead of the game.
“This year our main focus will be on the World Championships, which is why we are basing all our training camps in Pau, but we will also be doing European Championships at the end of May and then the World Cup Series in the run in.”
Canoe slalom athletes on the UK Sport Podium and Podium Potential Programme for 2017 are: