Team GB has today confirmed final names to the canoe sprint team who will compete at the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Deborah Kerr and Emily Lewis will race in the K1 Women’s 500m and 200m respectively and will have the opportunity to double up on the Sea Forest Waterway.
They join reigning champion Liam Heath MBE who earned his spot on the team after winning gold at the 2019 World Championship.
Having narrowly missed out on selection as part of the women’s K4 500m team at the same event, Deborah and Emily used the additional 12 months to prepare for the Games in their individual events.
Motherwell-native Kerr won her spot in style, having spent much of the first lockdown of 2020 in her hometown, where she reset her goals with ambitions to claim the Olympic spot.
Kerr was part of the Team GB Ambition Programme and the experience served to motivate the 23-year-old to put down two impressive races to secure her selection.
She realised her dreams with impressive performances at the British selection event followed by the European qualifiers in Szeged where she won the K1 200m followed by her first ever senior international medal, picking up World Cup bronze.
“I’m over the moon to be selected. A year ago I didn’t believe this would really happen with everything that was going on in the world.
“I did wonder whether it was worth going for Tokyo rather than starting from scratch with the long-term goal of Paris 2024 but it goes to show that when you’re consistent and have a great working relationship with the coach and team just what you can achieve.
“To qualify the spot was really important to me to do and realise I deserve this.
"It’s been such a team effort from everyone at British Canoeing to get us to where we are and I’m just really excited to get started now.”
Malvern's paddle Emily Lewis will also be making her Olympic debut in Tokyo. Emily competed at the Baku European Games in 2015 and was also part of the Rio 2016 Ambition Programme.
The 28-year-old moved to Guildford in 2019 to train alongside Liam Heath and his coach Eric Farrell and it has paid dividends as Emily raced to her best ever result at the European Canoe Sprint Championships in Poznan, Poland where she finished seventh in the K1 200m.
“I am really thrilled and excited and I just can’t wait to get out there. I’m really proud to represent Team GB and go out to Tokyo. It’s such a special thing to represent Team GB. I competed at the European Games in 2015 and got a taste for being part of a bigger team.
“I’ve worked for this for so long, it’s been 10 years in the making, this dream. It’s what gives you the motivation in the winter, to get up when it’s cold and dark and for it to be actually happening is just surreal."
Joining Deborah and Emily will be coach Kristina Medovcikova, who will be making history as the first female canoe sprint coach for Team GB. She too was part of the Team GB Ambition Programme in Rio and as one of Deborah’s first coaches at Strathclyde.
She said: “I feel honoured, privileged, proud, excited and humbled to go to my first Games and be part of the extended family that is Team GB.
“I have dreamt about it for as long as I have been involved with sprint canoeing, first as an athlete and later as a coach.
“I had the opportunity to have an insight into the Games in Rio with Team GB’s Ambition Programme in 2016 and it really opened my eyes, showed me what Team GB really is about, how huge and special the Games are and motivated me even more, to do my best in order to give my athletes the best chance."
Team GB Chef de Mission for the Tokyo Olympic Games, Mark England, commented: “Deborah and Emily have set an excellent example of athletes who have turned the challenges of the last fifteen months into an opportunity, and one that has paid off immensely. Their commitment and dedication throughout this period has been inspiring to watch from afar, and they truly deserve their selection to Team GB for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
“Alongside Liam we have a very strong team here and one that is capable of achieving great things in Japan this summer. We hope that Deborah and Emily relish every moment of this experience and we wish them the very best of luck.”
Paul Ratcliffe, Performance Director for British Canoeing, said: “We are delighted to formally select Deborah and Emily to our Sprint Olympic Team to represent Team GB in Tokyo.
“They are both superb athletes and inspirational people that have put in a huge amount of work and dedication to earn their places at the Games. As first time Olympians they have prepared very well and it will be exciting to see them perform at the Sea Forest Way Regatta Lake in Tokyo and inspire a new generation of youngsters.
“Together with Liam, it’s a high quality and focused team that we have selected. Not only that, but we have incredible coaches in Kristina and Eric and great performance staff to support them too.
“We have a brilliant plan for the holding Camp at Lake Kiba in Komatsu and we will now maximise our final preparations for the run into the Games to be the best prepared we can be.”
The Canoe Sprint will take place at the Sea Forest Waterway from 2-7 August.