Some of British Canoeing’s elite athletes have started their return to high performance training centres for the first time since lockdown in March.
The four canoe slalom athletes who have qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Mallory Franklin, Bradley Forbes-Cryans, Kimberley Woods and Adam Burgess, were among the first elite athletes in the country to be given access to their training base, Lee Valley White Water Centre, following the Government’s latest guidelines for a phased return to training.
They were followed by a number of paracanoe and canoe sprint athletes who have now returned to training at Holme Pierrepoint.
The “Elite Sport Return to Training” framework is afforded to elite sports under the Government’s latest guidelines for a phased return to training.
A number of measures have been put in place at the iconic Lee Valley White Water Centre, which currently remains closed to any other visitors and all sports and leisure activities. These include an induction meeting for every person to explain the safety measures in place, risk assessments taking into consideration every individual circumstance and daily safety checks from staff and athletes such as taking their temperatures before arriving for each session. This is also replicated at the National Water Sport Centre in Holme Pierrepont.
As stated in the guidelines, the return to training is strictly ‘opt-in’ for athletes and coaches and stringent measures have been put in place by British Canoeing, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and Holme Pierrepoint to make the sites as safe as possible.
Holme Pierrepoint reopened its doors to the public with additional safety measures in place on the regatta lake as members of the British paracanoe team, which includes World Champions Emma Wiggs and Charlotte Henshaw, returned to training. They were joined by a number of canoe sprint paddlers including Olympic hopefuls Katie Reid, Chloe Bracewell and Emily Lewis.
Slalom paddler Mallory Franklin, said: “Getting back to training has been really good, I was able to train in the gym through the whole of lockdown as I was fortunate enough to get gym kit from British canoeing, but to be back on the water is amazing!
“I have been paddling every day since I was five so to have more than eight weeks off the water was really hard and I am so grateful for every day that I get to go canoeing!
“It is still a little different as when we go to the course we have to get changed outside as we aren't allowed in the building and there is only a small group of us on the water each day.
“It does feel quite odd but it has been great to be able to get back on the water and try some of the moves and ideas that I had when doing some imagery training during the lockdown! I think my roll count is in the twenties at the moment though but plenty of learning coming from it all!”
Paracanoe’s world silver medallist Laura Sugar was able to get back on her local canal from 13 May when lockdown initially eased. But, with Holme Pierrepont’s regatta lake open again for the performance team, Laura was delighted to get back to the team environment.
“It’s so nice to get back to the HPP for water training. Although training on the canals was fun it’s nice to be back with some of my teammates and to get some face-to-face coaching, getting that immediate feedback rather than sharing videos at the end of the session.
“It’s such a nice feeling to be back out on the lake and doing what we love.”
Canoe sprinter Katie Reid was among the first phase of canoe sprint paddlers to also return to training.
“Being back at Holme Pierrepont and on the lake has enabled me to reintroduce key sessions back into my programme that weren't possible on the river.
“In normal circumstances, at this time of year, it's all about bringing together all the hard work I've done over the winter and laying it down in competition. Being back on the lake and being able to do time trials and time/distance efforts brings back some level of normality.
“A lot of hard work has gone in to making our return possible and I can't thank everyone enough.”
British Canoeing’s Performance Director Paul Ratcliffe, also paid testament to all those who have worked hard to ensure the athletes were able to begin the phased return to training, including staff who have been trained as Covid Officers and the exceptional support from the venue partners.
He said: “We are in a privileged position afforded to us by DCMS which gives world class performance athletes the opportunity to return to training and we are incredibly grateful to our partners for their help in getting our athletes back on the water.
“We’d especially like to thank the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority for allowing us access at a time when the site remains closed.
“Throughout this process it has been clear that the decision making on any return to training at our High Performance Centres should be determined by a clear risk assessment for each phase and at all times it is the decision of individual athletes and staff member to decide if they want to 'opt in' to the environment.
“With over a year to go our Olympic and Paralympic ambitions haven’t dampened but we know the cautious steps we make this year will stand us in good stead for the next 12 months.
“Our aspiration is to create opportunities for training for all of our athletes very soon but the threat of Covid-19 will remain for some time to come and there will be a collective responsibility to reduce risk of infection. We will continue to work with our partners including Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, Serco and Dorney Lake, as well as UK Sport, EIS and DCMS as we now plan and implement the next steps.”