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Former World Champion Louisa Gurski calls time on impressive paddling career

Announcing her retirement from canoe sprint is double Olympian Louisa Gurski (was Sawers) who has been a mainstay of the women’s K4 500m crew over the last two Olympic cycles.

K4 Simon Gurski Walker Cawthorn

She represented Team GB at London 2012, Rio 2016 and at the inaugural European Games in Baku and has won a number of World Cup Series medals including K4 500m bronze in 2014. But amongst her numerous achievements, she ranks the fifth place in the K4 500m at London 2012 in front of a home crowd as the highlight.

The understated 28-year-old from Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, also has the amazing accolade of World Champion to her name, as a specialist in the non-Olympic distance of the K1 5000m.  She became World Junior Champion back in 2006 and went on to win the senior World title in 2014. She has regularly been on the medal podium in this event on the World Cup circuit and at European Championships. 

Looking back on 10 years at senior international level Louisa said: “Competing at a home Olympic Games is so special and so few athletes get the chance to do that and then to go on to do another Olympic cycle was amazing.

I have loved travelling the world and seeing different countries and experiencing different cultures and it has been really satisfying to achieve things you didn’t think you could do.

– Louisa Gurski

“The dynamics of working with everyone and getting the best out of ourselves altogether as a group was great. There were some real highs like when we came 5th at the 2015 World Championships in Milan and qualified the K4 for Rio and it was so emotional. I'll miss the racing, Miklos my coach and the women's team as we had so much fun together.” 

Louisa has always attributed much of her success, particularly in the marathon, to her strong club roots, joining Elmbridge Canoe Club with her older brother John at the age of 10. She also soon saw off her twin brother Nick, with her early show of talent and turn of speed proving too much for him to compete with. 

Elmbridge is where everything began for me and it was the great culture at the club that was instilled in me from the start. You worked so hard in every session, yet it was fun and where I learnt all my boat skills and tactics.

– Louisa Gurski

Louisa married her fiancé Alex in 2015 and with two Olympic campaigns behind her, she feels the time is now right to settle down and enjoy family life and the challenge of her first full-time job as a receptionist, with oil and gas company, Wood Group.

“I have now moved on to the next chapter of my life with Alex. Being a full time athlete you have to make sacrifices and it’s a whole lifestyle. You give up everything to be the best you can, so it was hard on Alex, and now it is my turn to support him and have the time to enjoy each other’s company.

“I haven’t been in a boat since Rio, but I will definitely be paddling in the summertime albeit on the side-lines and I will keep my eye on the results.

“I have just started my first full-time job as a receptionist, so it is a very different lifestyle with a 40 hour week in an office. It has made me realise how privileged I was as an athlete, with so much support behind me. Although I worked extremely hard to reach the top and be a double Olympian, I now need to work my way up from the bottom all over again, but I am really enjoying it.”

A real powerhouse in the back seat of the crew boat, Louisa is sure to be greatly missed from the senior international programme.

Congratulating her on her significant contribution to the sport John Anderson MBE, British Canoeing Performance Director said: “Louisa has played a key role on our senior women’s international programme for nearly a decade and was a real driver in the K4 crew’s success in London and on to Rio and I would like to congratulate her on her achievements. 

To also become World Champion in the highly tactical and competitive K1 5000m event is hugely impressive and to claim a coveted World title is extremely special and something very few people ever achieve. On behalf of British Canoeing I would like to wish her all the very best for the future.

– John Anderson MBE