Reigning Olympic champion Liam Heath MBE heads the list of five canoeing athletes named today by the British Olympic Association (BOA) for Tokyo 2020, as part of the celebrations marking the 55th anniversary of the Opening Ceremony of Tokyo 1964.
Heath will compete at his third Olympic Games in Tokyo next year having won sprint bronze in the K2 200m alongside Jon Schofield in London and then silver in Rio before being crowned Olympic champion in the K1 200m three years ago.
He held the grand slam of canoeing titles in 2017 (Olympic, World and European) and has been unbeaten in the K1 200m since then. The 35-year-old, who hails from Guildford, will be looking to retain his title and cement his place in British history as the most successful canoe sprint athlete of all time.
Having qualified the maximum Olympic quota places at the World Championships last month, Heath is joined by four canoe slalom athletes, who will all make their Olympic debuts in Japan.
Mallory Franklin will race in the women’s canoe single (C1) class, the first time this event has been included in an Olympic Games, making it a doubly special debut for Franklin. Since taking up this new discipline for women in 2010 she has waited with keen anticipation for an opportunity to compete on the Olympic stage, since getting her first taste of a Games as a spectator at London 2012.
Since then she has made a meteoric rise through the sport, winning a record eight individual international medals in 2018 alone, to become Great Britain’s most successful female paddler. World Champion in 2017, this year she won her first senior European crown, followed by World Cup gold on her home course at Lee Valley.
Kimberley Woods will take the seat in the women’s kayak single (K1) to finally realise her Olympic dream, having had her first insight as a member of the Team GB Ambition Programme at Rio 2016. Woods is a World Cup medallist in this event and in 2018, her final year at U23, was a World Championship bronze medallist. She recorded her highest finish at the senior World Championships two weeks ago coming sixth, to claim her 2020 Olympic spot.
In the men’s kayak single (K1), Bradley Forbes-Cryans put down the run of his life at the World Championships last month, to finish just off the podium in fourth place and secure his Tokyo berth, beating some of the world’s biggest names in the process.
Forbes-Cryans is a World Cup silver medallist and won silver at the U23 World Championships last year. He started canoeing at CR Cats Canoe Club in Alva, Scotland, and becomes the fourth paddler from the club to represent Team GB, following in the footsteps of double Olympian Fiona Pennie, 2004 Olympic silver medallist Campbell Walsh and, C2 paddler Craig Brown from Atlanta 1996.
Completing the canoe slalom quartet is Adam Burgess in the men’s canoe single (C1). Great Britain’s first ever C1 U23 World Champion in 2015, Burgess has been growing in stature over the last few years becoming the 2018 European Championships silver medallist and a World Cup silver medallist this year. Introduced to the sport through the Scouts, Burgess also enjoyed his first exposure to Team GB as part of Team GB’s Ambition Programme for London 2012.
The five canoeists add to the 12 sailors announced last Tuesday in the first team announcement on the road to Tokyo 2020.
The selected canoeists are:
Liam Heath: Canoe Sprint - Men’s Kayak Single (K1) 200m
Mallory Franklin: Canoe Slalom - Women’s Canoe Single (C1)
Kimberley Woods: Canoe Slalom - Women’s Kayak Single (K1)
Adam Burgess: Canoe Slalom - Men’s Canoe Single (C1)
Bradley Forbes-Cryans: Canoe Slalom - Men’s Kayak Single (K1)
For canoe sprint there is a further opportunity to qualify additional Olympic quota places at second round qualification next May.
Mark England, Team GB’s Chef de Mission for Tokyo 2020, said: “The canoeing selections for Team GB bring a mix of Olympic pedigree and exciting new talent. Liam Heath is current World and Olympic Champion and being unbeaten for two years in his canoe sprint event tells you all you need to know about his calibre. The four canoe slalom athletes have shown their capabilities to make it to these Games and with the new C1 discipline, which we will compete in, there is much to look forward to for the sport at Tokyo 2020.”
Paul Ratcliffe, Team GB Canoeing Team Leader and British Canoeing Performance Director, said:
“We are delighted to be announcing the first canoeing members of Team GB today. We have gone through a very tough selection process over the last six months and we have now selected a strong team capable of delivering on the Olympic stage and contributing to the overall success of Team GB.
“The vast international experience of Liam Heath in canoe sprint is complemented by our exciting young team of four debutants in canoe slalom, who have all shown the drive and talent under extreme pressure to secure their places on the team. We look forward to their early selection enabling us to accelerate our individual athlete performance plans for the important year ahead and for slalom, to take maximum advantage of training out in Tokyo on the Olympic course, something which has paid dividends at the last two Games.”
Liam Heath, 35, from Guildford, Surrey, said:
Being selected to represent Team GB at the Olympics for a third time is such an honour and I feel incredibly lucky to compete once again, against the best of the best and hopefully make everyone proud.– Liam Heath
“Each Games is so different and special in its own way, I’m excited to get to Tokyo to experience what this one will be like - I have no doubt it will be amazing! I just want to thank everyone who has helped me get to this moment, Team GB, British Canoeing, National Lottery players, my coaches, support staff, team mates, volunteers and family. I’ve not got here on my own and I hope everyone will share in this incredible moment with me.”
Mallory Franklin, 25, from Windsor, Berkshire, now living in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, said:
“It is amazing to be going to my first Games, although it hasn't fully sunk in yet, but I am sure it will and I will get really excited. I am really looking forward to heading out to Japan soon and getting used to the culture and the course.”
Kimberley Woods, 24, from Rugby, Warwickshire, now living in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, said:
“This has been a dream of mine since I was little and I couldn’t be happier that all my hard work has really paid off. Little changes I’ve made this year and fully understanding myself as a person have made a huge difference and I cannot wait to see what next year has to offer, in the most important year of my life.
I was fortunate to go to Rio as part of Team GB’s Ambition Programme so I know roughly what to expect which will help massively. It’s going to be incredible wearing the flag and walking into the stadium as part of Team GB with the whole country behind us. It is going to be breath-taking and I cannot wait to get out there.– Kimberley Woods
Bradley Forbes-Cryans, 24, from Roslin, Midlothian, now living in Waltham Abbey, Essex, said:
“It’s been an absolute dream of mine to compete at the Olympic Games and to have that opportunity now is incredible. I am so thankful to have such a great team around me at British Canoeing and the support from National Lottery funding, UK Sport and my sponsors, I couldn’t have done it without them. The emotional support from my friends and family, being on the rounds every step with me means such a lot and it really motivates me to get back in my boat and start training hard towards Tokyo.”
Adam Burgess, 27, from Stone, Staffordshire, now living Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, said:
“Securing this nomination is literally a dream come true! Who knew that the kid who fell in love with the sport all those years ago would now be preparing to race at the Olympic Games. It's amazing, and I hope I can bring as much as possible of this unique experience home with me to share with absolutely everyone who has supported me along the way.”