Three-time Olympian Jess Walker has announced her retirement from competitive racing after an incredible career as an elite athlete in canoe sprint.
Speaking of her decision to retire Jess Walker said:
It’s been a huge privilege to represent Great Britain and Team GB and I am really proud of the career I have had as a full-time athlete. I have been competing in the World Class team for 14 years and it has been life changing.– Jess Walker
“I have spent a lot of time over the summer months reflecting on my career and I now feel the time is right to retire from the sport and focus on new and exciting opportunities.
“I was really tempted to go for Tokyo qualification and I would have loved to compete in a fourth Olympic Games, but the postponement gave me time to reassess and I feel now is the time to hang up the paddle.”
Jess started paddling at the age of 10 with Royal Canoe Club. Her early promise soon came to fruition and at 16 she became 2006 Junior World Marathon Champion, in the K2 event with teammate Louisa Sawers.
In canoe sprint, Jess continued her impressive Junior record, becoming European Champion in 2007 in the K1 500m. During the 2008 Junior European Championships Jess won gold in the K1 1000m and silver in the K1 500m in Szeged.
During a 14 year career as an elite athlete on the Great Britain canoe sprint team, Jess competed across a range of individual and crew boat events.
At just 18 years of age Jess qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, to become the youngest ever British female canoeist. Competing with Anna Hemmings in the Women's K2 500m the duo finished in 17th place.
At the home London 2012 Games, Jess qualified for the K1 200m to become the first British woman to compete in the new Olympic event. Jess qualified for the final finishing in seventh place. At London 2012 Jess also competed in the Women’s K4 500m, helping Team GB to take fifth place.
Jess made a third successive Olympic Games after qualifying for Rio 2016. Competing in two events, Jess finished in 15th place in the K1 200m and once again took her place in the Women’s K4 500m team that qualified for the Olympic final.
As a senior, Jess regularly completed in World and European Championships across two decades. At the 2011 World Championships at the age of 21 she was part of the K4 500m team that just missed out on the medals, finishing in fourth place. Jess also qualified for the A final of the K1 200m.
Jess claimed two European Championship medals, silver in the K1 200m in 2016 at Moscow and bronze in the K2 200m with Angela Hannah in 2014 at Brandenberg.
Jess has also had a string of World Cup successes. In 2014 Jess and Angela Hannah claimed gold in World Cup 3 in Szeged in the K2 200m. In 2011 Jess was part of the gold medal winning crew in the K4 500m at World Cup 3 in Duisburg.
There were further medals in 2011 at World Cup 2 in Racice with bronze in the K1 200m and silver in the K4 500m.
Looking back at her 14 year career as an elite athlete, Jess added:
“Paddling has brought so many amazing moments and I have made some incredible friends along the way. Competing at the London 2012 Olympic Games was a really special moment, I can’t describe what it is like to race at a home Games. My first Games in Beijing at just 18 years old was really exciting.
“The people you train with and the friendships you make along the way is really special, everyone I trained with day in day out played a big part in my career.
I just love the sport, the feeling of being out on the water and just the fantastic places it takes you across the world. I would really like to thank UK Sport and The National Lottery because all this wouldn’t have been possible without them.– Jess Walker
Paul Ratcliffe, Performance Director at British Canoeing said:
“Jess has had an exceptional career as a long standing member of the British Canoeing international Canoe Sprint team, representing Team GB at three Olympic Games and winning multiple medals on the international stage.
Jess’s dedication, determination and work ethic have been outstanding throughout her whole career. Making her Olympic debut at just 18 was an incredible achievement, and she has shown outstanding ability to perform in individual and crew boat events over many years.– Paul Ratcliffe, Performance Director
“On behalf of British Canoeing I would like to wish her well in her future career ambitions and I’m sure that by applying the same level of focus and determination she will have great success.”