Using Social Media for the 2012 Olympic Canoe Slalom

Blog author – John Gregory

I embarked upon a social media experiment for the London2012 Olympics. I have been a writer and commentator on canoe slalom for more than 25 years and volunteered to write a daily blog on canoe slalom as a feed for several sports websites. This was my contribution to the Olympics in raising awareness of our incredible, exhilarating sport of canoe slalom. Here is an account of what transpired and what can be learnt from the exercise.

I have been an early adopter of social media starting with Facebook, LinkedIn and Flickr in 2007, blogs starting from 2008, Twitter in 2009 and more recently Google+. The blog was published through WordPress, which I had used in other work related areas. Each post was on a different topic related to international canoe slalom and I was working a couple of days ahead. Each post was about 500-1000 words with about 3 photographs. The blog ran for 31 days with 42 posts during between July 2nd and August 3rd. I posted live text from an iPad at the venue at the end of each class during the semi-finals and finals. The blog resulted in over 6000 views, with 743 on the last day of the Olympic canoe slalom event at Lee Valley Whitewater Centre.

The most searched item was Jessica Fox, the 18 year old Australian who won silver in the K1W – kayak single women class, followed by in order; Lee Valley, canoe slalom & Hannes Aigner, who won a bronze medal for Germany in K1M – men’s single kayak class. The number of views on the sports websites is unknown. The greatest number of referrals was through Google by a huge margin, followed by , followed by Facebook and Twitter. The daily blog posts and multiple posts on the day of the finals and Team GB Gold & Silver medals meant that the blog came up multiple times in the first page of Google if searching for canoe slalom. So frequency of blog or website updates has a hugely significant effect on search engine optimization, as suggested by Eileen Brown in her book, ‘Working the Crowd’ and also in a guide ‘Going Social  – Tapping into Social Media for Nonprofit Success’

There were 215 tags. Top posts were; home page, Lee Valley venue, Spectators Guide, What to expect & Canoe Slalom from behind the lens. Top click-through’s were to the blog URL, London2012, and International Canoe Federation . The tribute to Martyn Hedges received the most comments from several Olympian and paddlers at World Championships who had personally known Martyn. My own favourite post was the ‘My Ultimate Run’. In all the years of canoe slalom media I can never think that I have read an article written in the first person on what it ‘feels’ like to paddle a slalom race at this level. It was a fun piece of creative writing.

I publicized the blog through Twitter, Facebook and Linked. It was regularly retweeted including by BBC Sport. The most spectacular photography was made available to me by Michael Barnett, Antony Edmonds, Rob van Bommel  and various other individuals and this added a professional look and depth to the quality of the posts.

How does this relate to the business world?

Over the years much of what I have learnt in the use of social media in business has come from my experiences of using social media in sport and charitable organisations. On this occasion, I have used more tags than ever before, seen the impact of these and the frequency of updates on search engine optimisation. I used captions below each photograph. Each post has been automatically publicised in Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  I also spent time reviewing the daily, weekly and month to date stats, which was exciting and motivating.

John Gregory August 28th 2012


The Lee Valley canoe slalom legacy

Wow, what a legacy! Note to self – buy all of the newspapers!

Today’s last post is dedicated to the service of those who have invested the last few years of their lives to pull off the greatest canoe slalom show on earth. There really has been two Team GB’s: one dedicated to performance excellence with the athletes and one dedicated to those that have delivered the highest level competition venues. There have been challenges and disappointments along the way but this should not detract from what has been achieved. You should now all be incredibly proud.

The Times cover Friday August 3 2012

There have been 800 people behind the scenes at the venue on race days. A core team of 11 led by Canoe Manager, John MacLeod (1972 Canoe Slalom Olympian) have worked full-time for several years to bring this competition together. I want to recognise and acknowledge what they have achieved. They are: Elaine Skilton (Canoe Services Manager), Colin Woodgate (Canoe Slalom Technical Operations Manager), Kelly Rainey (Slalom Admin Services Group Leader), Tamsin Phipps (Canoe International Federation Group Leader), Natalie Sandmann (Slalom Athlete and Team Services Group Leader, Debbie Littlehales (Slalom Sports Information Group Leader), Dave Royle (Slalom Field of Play Group Leader), Julien Gaspard (Slalom Sports Equipment Group Leader), Jacky Brookes (Slalom Technical Officials Group Leader) and Paskell Blackwell(Slalom Field of Play Safety Group Leader). The Venue General Manager of the Lee Valley Whitewater Centre is Paul Valkovics (see We were delighted to welcome two Royal Air Force Squadrons to provide security for the games; Royal Air Force Regiment Queen Colour Squadron (63) Northholt and 2 Squadron Honnington Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, as well as all the emergency services inside and beyond the immediate venue. There are so many others including Lee Valley, British Canoe Union CEO Paul Owen, GBCanoeing and their headline sponsor Tesco.

The Daily Telegraph Friday August 3, 2012 pages 4-5

The immediate post Olympics is a key decision point for athletes and teams. For the athletes, whether to commit to another four year cycle. For the Gold medallist, Molmenti, Estanguet, Fer and Ballie/Stott whether to now bow out on a high or commit to the next four year cycle. London2012 has been Hilgertova’s 6th Olympics and Oblinger’s 5th. Some of the paddlers will retire and move to be part of coaching staff in either their own National Federation or for oversees athletes. From a British perspective also the decision whether to permanently relocate the canoe slalom to Lee Valley or return to the base in Nottingham. There is currently no canoe slalom club at Lee Valley and several athletes and coaches see this as a next logical step to build a legacy from Lee Valley.

The ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships are confirmed at Lee Valley for 2015. Given the enormous UK interest generated in the sport can we argue for a 5-10,000 seater stadium for 2015. Recalling the 1995 World’s in Nottingham it was primarily attended by athletes, coaches, managers, officials, friends and family plus only a few hundred members of the public who may have
found themselves stumbling upon the race. It did have BBC and Eurosport TV coverage and this helped inspire a new generation of paddlers. This year is not yet over in the International Canoe Slalom calendar with two World Cup races remaining. The 2013 World Championships will be super exciting. They are back at the Prague Troja artificial canoe slalom course.

It was incredible to see the old guard in the stands or alongside the course, previous Olympic medallists such as Gareth Marriott, Lisa Micheler-Jones, Scott Shipley, Thomas Schmidt, Pierepaolo Ferrazzi, Paul Ratcliffe, Helen Reeves and Campbell Walsh as well as other Olympian’s; Nick Smith, Mark Delaney, Melvyn Jones, Ian Raspin, Rachel Crosbee, Chris Arrowsmith, Paul Brain and Miriam Jerusalmi-Fox and coaches Hugh Mantle, Ken Langford and Alan Edge.  At the same time there were Great Britain junior and U23 team paddlers cheering on their role models and thousands of club slalom paddlers and recreational canoeists. Our hope is that London2012 really will inspire a next generation of Olympians. Lee Valley was voted by LOCOG based on a spectator exit poll as the best Olympic venue. Helen Reeves was also voted as one of the best TV commentators. Kev McHugh, Andy Maddock and Randy Ferguson brought the venue alive with some high energy live commentary. We encourage everyone to come back for the ICF World Canoe Slalom Championships in 2015 again here at Lee Valley.

Before rounding off, a most overwhelming congratulations to all 83 paddlers, our 15 London2012 Olympic medallists and to Performance Director, John Anderson MBE on behalf of GB Canoeing staff. A vision has been realized!  We have a World Class venue in London & South East of England, Olympic Gold in canoe slalom, Olympic C2 medals and a media spotlight on this most amazing sport.

This is THE picture of the whole Olympic canoe slalom event. It captures everything we have dreamed of and what has been achieved. Congratulations. L-R Nick Smith, Etienne Stott, Mark Delaney, Richard Hounslow, David Florence & Tim Baillie. Photo courtesy of Antony Edmonds AE Photos

It has been an absolute privilege to bring you this daily blog over the last month, which has generated almost 5,000 direct views. It has provided an encyclopaedia of canoe slalom for London2012. I would like to acknowledge a bunch of people who have helped me along the way in no particular order, they are: Michael Barnett (MB23 Photography), Antony Edmonds (AE Photos), Rob van Bommel (Sportscene), Tony Tickle (although not up to the expected standard!) and Craig Morris for permission to use photographs and Nick Smith, Chris Arrowsmith, Gareth Marriott, Elaine Skilton, Anne Hounslow, Jimmy Jayes, Russ Smith, Colin Woodgate and others for some facts, figures and opinions. Finally for the links and newsfeeds on,,, Ollie Williams BBC Sport and TalkSport. Much appreciated guys.

Tell everyone you know in the UK to buy a newspaper today. I hope you pick up a paddle. Visit For now, au revoir.


Gold Day for GB Canoeing in C2 – France win second gold in K1W

This evening the pictures should do the talking

David, Richard, Tim, Etienne, Peter & Pavol (photo courtesy of Sportscene)

Two British C2 crews have beaten the formidable favourites the Hochschorner’s. At the time when the Hochschorner’s won their last Olympic gold, Great Britain did not qualify a C2 crew for Beijing. Olympic Gold in canoe slalom has been a dream. A GB World Championship or Olympic gold medal in C2 has been a vision. Dreams can come true. Congratulations Tim, Etienne, David & Richard for delivering gold and silver for TeamGB, GBCanoeing and the sport of Canoe Slalom and canoeing in general. Phenominal achievement. London2012 at Lee Valley has left a spectacular legacy.

Tim & Etienne with gold and Richard and David with Olympic silver in C2 (photo courtesy of AE Photos

Here are links to the C2 finals and K1W finals.

Penalties played a significant part in both competitions today and in the ladies saw four World Champions fail to make the podium (Hilgertova, Schornberg, Dukatova & Kuhnle). Huge congratulations to Emilie Fer who secured France’s second Olympic canoe slalom gold medal at Lee Valley. 18 year old Jessica Fox from Australia took an inspiring silver medal and Spain’s Maialen Chorraut took bronze.

Jessica Fox Australia, Emilie Fer France & Maialen Chourraut (photo courtesy of Sportscene)

Tomorrow a round up of what this means to the Sport of Canoe Slalom in the UK and a tribute to the 800 people who made Lee Valley voted as the best Olympic venue, stunning TV and delivered Great Britain’s first Olympic gold medal

Most promising paddler award

In an earlier post I suggested that it was not a question on whether Australia’s young 18 year old Junior World Champion would win a medal, only at which Olympics and what colour. For her to win a silver medal this afternoon at Lee Valley during London2012 is truly mind blowing. She won the Junior World Championship only last month in Wausau, USA.

For those in the sport, the name Fox is possibly the best known. Her father Richard was the 5 time World K1M individual champion between 1981 and 1993 (11 medals in total). I was blessed today to sit beside, Roger, Jessica’s grandfather to witness the GB C2 Gold and Silver and then Jessica’s silver medal in K1W. Jessica is coached by her mother, Miriam Jerusalmi-Fox who also won two World Championships (10 medals in total). Dad, Richard had the agony of a fourth place finish in Barcelona in 1992 so today will be a special day for the whole Fox family.

The K1W Olympic Gold medal was won by France’s Emilie Fer, 29 in a clear run of 105.90 seconds. Emilie had previously been 7th in Beijing and 4th at the 2011 World Championships. It is France’s second gold medal at Lee Valley following Tony Estanguet’s gold in the C1. Silver went to the young Jessica Fox and bronze to Maialen Chourraut.

So it only begs the question what we should expect from Fox in the 2013 Senior World Championships, Rio Olympics in 2016 and beyond? Richard inspired so many of us to take up canoe slalom it is truly special to see the legacy continue with a role model for a new generation.

Tears of joy as TeamGB go Gold & Silver in C2 canoe slalom

I am in tears….. Lee Valley has erupted as TeamGB’s Olympic canoe slalom team has delivered Gold and Silver. The impact of this achievement to canoeing and canoe slalom in the UK cannot be understated. It is Great Britain’s first ever gold medal in canoe slalom and it’s first ever Olympic medal in C2. The triple Olympic champions the Hochschorner’s had to settle for a bronze after they have utterly dominated C2 for more than 10 years.

Congratulations to Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott on gold in a fastest C2 clear run of 106.41. They were the first boat down in the final and had to wait for the remaining 5 boats down before they knew if their 106.41 seconds was quick enough. As the final progressed they stayed top and after the Hochschorner’s posted 108.28 with a two second penalty the British spectators erupted knowing it was now certain gold for TeamGB. The last boat down GB’s David Florence and Richard Hounslow although up on both split times could only cross the line to take Olympic silver.

Congratulations to the whole team. The coaches Nick Smith and Mark Delaney, themselves both Olympians who joined the paddlers in the water to celebrate.

Buy a newspaper on August 3rd. It will be a collector’s item as a piece of Olympic and Team GB history was made today at Lee Valley.

Trials and tribulations in K1W semi-finals

Excitement at Lee Valley in the K1W semi-finals with ups, down and with plenty of penalties. Natalia Pacierpnik from Poland is the winner of the semi-final with a time of 107.79 with a two second penalty. None of the ladies really nailed the course and so the Gold medalist will need to pull out something exceptional. Four World Champions make it through to the K1W finals: Chourraut; Dukatova; Kuhnle and Schornberg. Junior World Champion, Jessica Fox from Australia and double Olympic Champion, Stepanka Hilgertova from Czech Republic are also through to the final later Thursday afternoon. There is everything to play for.

Further disappointment for Great Britain with the usually smooth and clean Lizzie Neave picking up 6 seconds of penalties and failing to qualify among the ten boats for the final.

Remaining qualifiers for final are: Emilie Fer from France, Marta Kharitonova from Russia and Hannah Craig from Ireland.

New heights for Great Britain canoe slalom C2

Great Britain’s C2 pair of David Florence and Richard Hounslow powered their way down in a strong 108.93 seconds with no penalties to win the semi-final in C2. Only 6 boats qualify for Thursday’s final in an hour and Great Britain for the first time ever has two C2 boats in an Olympic final. New heights. Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott qualified for Great Britain in sixth place. David and Richard will be the last off in the final.

As expected the three time Olympic champions qualified comfortably in second with a time off 109.04 seconds with a 2 second penalty. It was easily the fastest actual run time of 107.04 plus a 2 second penalty for hitting gate 5 on the top section of this Olympic Lee Valley Whitewater centre course. The Hochschorner’s pulled out the stops with a direct move on gate 18. Heat winners Klauss and Peche from France executed a similar move to qualify third.

With two TeamGB paddlers in the final of 6 boats it will be noisy and tense in this 12,000 sweater stadium.

And the Italian’s Went Wild!

Canoe Slalom Olympic Day 4 Review

Italy’s Daniele Molmenti Olympic Gold (phot courtesy of

The Italian’s among the 12,000 spectators, never known for being especially quiet, went absolutely wild before World No. 1 Slovenia’s Peter Kauzer had reached the final gates. Reigning World Champion Kauzer had won the semi-final with a 2 second penalty on gate 1 and then incurred a 2 second penalty on gate 3 in his final run, however, Kauzer’s challenges were not complete, on hitting gate 16 and then 22, the Italian’s began loudly celebrating realising that their Daniele Molmenti’s leading time of 93.43 was beyond the reach of Peter Kauzer. Daniele Molmenti, 27, himself on crossing the finish line on his final run knew he had pulled out the run of his life.  He punched the sky celebrating his Ultimate Run. He then had an agonizing wait for Poland’s Mateusz Polaczyk and then Peter Kauzer to complete their respective runs. The key to Molmenti’s astonishingly quick time may be the perfectly executed spin which he nailed twice in the gateline of gate 10, following the cross from the red and white upstream of gate 9. Molmenti is arguably the physically strongest paddler in canoe slalom; Olympic Gold now tops his already sparkling collection of World Champion Gold (2010), World Cup Gold (2010) and European Championship Golds (2009, 2011 & 2012). Many paddlers crossed high finding themselves up a foot above gate 10 where they span and wasted 1-3 seconds before they were clear of the poles to move on to the remaining gates. Michal Martikan will be the only paddler to have attempted and successfully pulled off gate 10 forwards, meaning without a spin to negotiate it.

Absolute delight for Daniele Molmenti (photo courtesy of Sportscene)

Vavrinec Hradilek, 25 from the Czech Republic had been the third down in the final posting a time of 94.78 clear, which made it the time for all other paddlers to beat to secure a medal. With the exception of Kauzer’s semi-final run of 96.02 seconds which had included a two second penalty all the medallists posted times faster than the semi-final runs on the same set of gates. In the end only Daniele Molmenti could go faster and clean to take a second Italian Olympic Gold medal in K1M. The first had been his Italian coach, Pierpaolo Ferrazzi in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

Germany picked up its second medal in two days with a bronze for Hannes Aigner, 23. Despite his early spin above gate 10, he was super tight on both the red and white upstreams of gates 13 and 16. He finished with 94.92 seconds clear 1.49 seconds down on Molmenti and again like Sideris Tasiadis in the C1 yesterday he will be another German paddler to watch in Rio in 2016 if his form and race experience continue.

Again it was not Great Britain’s day of Gold as Richard Hounslow failed to reach the final in his first Olympics.

Day 5 K1W and C2 Medals Day Preview

Thursday is final day of the 5 day canoe slalom Olympic competition where we have the semi-finals and finals of the C1 – Canadian single class and K1W – women’s single kayak class. They are on a different course than their heat on Monday but the same course as the previous semi-final and finals. The 15 remaining K1W paddlers and remaining 8 C2 boats start at two minute thirty second intervals for a single run semi-final. In the semi-finals they go in reverse order of their finish in Monday’s heat. In the K1W class only 10 qualify for the final and in C2 only 6.

Looking back to the C2 heats Gauthier Klauss & Matthieu Peche’s first run was the quickest, although the legendary Hochschorner brothers looked very comfortable with two calm, controlled and consistent runs to place them 2nd in the C2. The Chinese crew of Minghai Hu and Junrong Shu improved upon an already impressive first run. Both Great Britain C2 crews of Tim Baillie & Etienne Stott and David Florence & Richard Hounslow qualified for the semi-finals. David Florence and Richard Hounslow having not advanced in their single classes combine for the C2 where they are bronze medalists from the World Championships in 2010 and winners of the first 2012 World Cup race.

Watch out for the following C2s, Jaroslav Volf and Ondrej Stepanek from the Czech Republic who were Olympic bronze medalists in Athens and silver medalists in Beijing; Luka Bozic and Saso Taljat from Slovenia who were bronze medalists at the World Championships in 2009 and a final world for Peter and Pavol Hochschorner from Bratislava in Slovakia who have already become legendary within C2. They are the only athletes to have won four consecutive World Championship titles. They have won the World Cup series 10 times since 1999 and the European Championships 6 times. If they were to win gold at London2012 they would make history again as the only athletes to win four successive gold medals at the Olympic Games.

Looking back to the K1W heats, only three ladies posted times, with penalties under 100 seconds: Maialen Chourraut; Lizzie Neave and Maria Clara Giai Pron. Jessica Fox’s second run was outstanding with a 4th place finish in the heat from her second run ahead of double Olympic Champion, Hilgertova. Stepanka Hilgertova from the Czech Republic did what she needed to gain qualification in 5th place for her sixth consecutive Olympic Games. Lizzie Neave from Great Britain did two solid clear run performances, showing her home comfort with the course to finish second, with one of the fastest runs of the day. Maialen Chourraut, 2011 World Championship bronze medallist from Spain set by far the fastest run of the K1W including a 2 second penalty. Other potential favourites to watch remain, three recent World Champions, Austria’s Corinna Kuhnle, Germany’s Jasmin Schornberg and Slovakia’s Jana Dukatova.

Thursday Schedule:

  • Semi-final of the C2 starting at 1.30pm until 2pm. There will be 10 boats in the semi-final going in reverse order of their finish in the heat from Monday. The winner of the heat is last off. The semi-final is one run only.
  • Semi-final of the K1W starting at 2.12pm until 2.57pm. There will be 15 K1W boats in the semi-final going in reverse order of their finish in the heat from Monday.
  • Final run of C2 as decider for the Olympic medals starting at 3.18pm until 3.36pm. There will only be 6 C2 boats remaining for the final. Can Great Britain win Olympic gold or will Peter & Pavol Hochschorners land a historic 4th consecutive Olympic title?
  • Final run of the K1W as decider for the Olympic medals starting at 3.57pm until 4.26pm. There will only be 10 K1W boats remaining for the final.

After two days of finals, the Gold’s appear to be going to those nations who have previously won previous Olympics, suggesting strong potential for Slovakia, Czech Republic and Germany in K1W and Slovakia and French in C2 (The USA C2 boat did not qualify for the semi-final). The spectators appear to be getting louder each day and on Thursday there will be two London2012 Olympic Gold medals for the taking. If you can’t be there tune in for spectacular TV coverage. The 5 days of Olympic canoe slalom competition concludes with the C2 and K1W medal ceremony after the field of play is called clear. Then we all go home, some happy, some sad and prepare for Rio in 2016! Come back here Thursday night for the final medal standings for the K1W and C2.

Wenlock at Lee Valley with the Fire Service (photo courtesy of John Gregory)

New Olympic K1M champion waiting in the wings

Another thrilling spectacle here at Lee Valley for the canoe slalom K1M semi finals. Reigning World Champion Peter Kauzer from Slovakia hit gate 9 and then blistered down the rest of the course. he finished with 96.02 including his two second penalty. Based on the final split he made up 2 seconds in the last 5 gates before the finish. Clear his time would have been an awesomely quick 94.02 seconds. He will start last in the final this afternoon.

Through to the final are: Aigner, Hernanz, Hradilek, Kauzer, Polaczyk, Molmenti, Oblinger, Daille, Boukpeti and Yazawa. This marks Japan’s first progression to an Olympic final. The run times were comparable with yesterday’s C1 showing how tight and technical this course is. Many paddlers have lost a second or two just above gate 10 by crossing just a little too high, including Hounslow. Three paddlers came unstuck incurring 50 second penalties. Hanes Aigner from Germany who was last down in the semi continued his excellent form, although he picked up a 2 second penalty on gate 22. Nevertheless, he is safely through to what is expected to be a nail-biting final.

Further disappointment for TeamGB with Richard Hounslow failing to make the top 10 for the final. Richard incurred a 2 second penalty for touching gate 19, which was clearly a shock for him as he crossed the line and looked up at the scoreboard. Richard and David will now re-group with their coach Nick Smith to focus on the upcoming semi-final in C2 tomorrow. This is a class in which Great Britain has never previously medaled at Olympics but we do have the advantage of two boats having qualified for the semi-finals.

Full results of the semi-final and finals in K1M plus a preview of the final day of competition to come later tonight.