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Getting to know...Ian Marsden

Ian Marsden Kl1 M 6406

By Jonathan Smith

After a year tainted by personal tragedy, Ian Marsden has had to learn to let go and focus on Tokyo.  

In the space of two weeks over Christmas 2020, Marsden lost his father, Martin, to COVID-19, five years to the day after the death of his mother, Margaret, as well as two close family friends.

It is perhaps because of his experience across a number of sports that Marsden has been able to stay focused.  The 49-year-old has represented Great Britain in powerlifting and target shooting and was the first British male to win a podium position on the European handcycling circuit.

It is shooting, in particular, that he says has helped him learn to keep calm and focused.

“Shooting is not at all physical. It's all mental,” he explains. “If you want to lift a bigger weight, maybe you can get a bit angrier and try to push it a bit more, but in shooting if you add extra force or anger, you won’t get anywhere.”

He adds that this experience helps him keep calm in canoeing, too. “I feel like I'm always quite calm on the start line. When you’re in a pressure situation, some athletes panic when they’re in the bucket holding and there’s a strong crosswind, but if you don’t let yourself feel under pressure you’re fine, don’t be afraid to paddle back a few metres and reset,” he explains.

This attitude served him well at Rio 2016, where he won a bronze medal in the K1 200m after recovering from a difficult start and in the years since he believes he has further improved.

“I’ve definitely got stronger and quicker since Rio,” he says.

Despite the difficulties of training during lockdown, Marsden acknowledges there have been some positives.

With an abundance of scientific training in his household – Marsden’s wife, Maya, works as a frontline nurse, Marsden himself is a former veterinary pathologist and his sister, Lisa, works on the COVID ward of a hospital – he feels he and his family perhaps reacted quicker than most in preparing for the worsening of the pandemic, and in doing so were able to limit the disruption.

“Certainly at first it was a bit more relaxed. It meant getting out of bed and training outside the door, with no journey down to Nottingham to train and sitting in traffic, so that was a lot better. And obviously in terms of my recovery, I found that a lot better as well, because I could spread my training to seven or eight hours between sessions whereas normally I get two hours,” he explains.

While Marsden of course feels he is capable of medalling in Tokyo, he knows that no matter what happens, he will deliver a race he is proud of.

“It sometimes takes a bit of luck. I think any athlete will say that if everything is lined up perfectly you know it's yours to win, but it just takes one tiny thing and there’s so much that is out of your control. So as long as you put the training in, then it doesn't really matter. You should do okay. And on race day my mind will be very clear on that.”

While Marsden of course feels he is capable of medalling in Tokyo, he knows that no matter what happens, he will deliver a race he is proud of.