“They are loving the sessions!” – Lee Valley Legacy Takes Off

Abridged article here, for the full story see Sportscene – Judging from early feedback the Lee Valley Legacy project experience is really inspiring a next generation of canoe slalom paddlers.  The youngsters share the venue with GB Canoeing athletes, who have gone the extra mile to make them welcome.

“I have a young man who is totally blown away by the session and his Coach. Inspired would be an understatement”

Twenty-six young paddlers have now had Canoe Slalom coaching at the Hertfordshire venue, from 14 different clubs. It is the first stage of the sport’s London Olympic Legacy plans organised by GB Canoeing in cooperation with Canoe England, the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and local canoe clubs. The project aims to generate interest in Canoe Slalom amongst paddlers, aged nine to 16, and as expected the bulk of numbers has come from local clubs.

“I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” said Mike Chandler, lead coach for the first sessions.  “I’m not saying we’re going to get an Olympic Champion out of this group of kids, but we have seen many who have real potential for slalom competition. Seven of our regular young paddlers have taken part in the first local Division 3/4 slalom event with their club, with one gaining promotion to Division 3.”

The Lee Valley Legacy Project has already gone quickly off the start line and into the first gate sequences…


The red thread to glory

Click here to view the full story on Sportsene and Etienne’s TEDx talk on YouTube

Sportscene – In the TEDx talk video Etienne Stott tells a truly inspirational story of the key moments in his journey from the age of ten, which including teaming up with Tim Baillie and the 2011 serious shoulder injury which put his hopes Olympics in jeopardy and regaining full fitness to win gold at London 2012. Etienne’s TEDx talk titled ‘The Red Thread to Glory’ was given at the University of Salford, Manchester, UK on January 16, 2013.

New Sportscene ‘column’ – Sneak preview of what to expect in the 2013 canoe slalom season

Welcome to a preview of the 2013 international  canoe slalom season

Follow this link to a Sneak Preview of what to expect in the 2013 canoe slalom season posted on the Sportscene website.

I am delighted to be one of the new contributors to Sportscene and will be providing race previews, race day reports and post race reviews of the ICF World Cup and World Championship events through 2013.

John – @gregiej

New Year’s Honours List accolade for GB canoeists

I am delighted to report that Tim Baillie, Etienne Stott and Ed McKeever (200m sprint racing) have been awarded MBE (Member of the British Empire) in Queen Elizabeth II’s New Year’s Honours List. All three won gold at the London 2012 Olympics in August.

Click here for the link to the GB Canoeing page with a comment from GB Canoeing Performance Director, John Anderson, also an MBE.

Nick, Etienne, Mark, Richard, Etienne and Tim (photo courtesy of AE photos)
Nick, Etienne, Mark, Richard, David and Tim at the end of the C2 finals (photo courtesy of AE photos)

This is a fantastic end to the 2012 year for GB Canoeing and indeed the world-wide sport as a whole as it further raises the media profile of this exhilarating sport. The MBE’s also recognise the sustained Olympic performance by the whole of the GB Canoeing organisation over many many years, which culminated in our first ever canoe slalom gold medals and first Olympic medals in C2. Tim, Etienne and Ed now join Richard Fox who was awarded an MBE in 1986 for his services to British Sport. Photographs posted elsewhere show exciting and significant work at the Troja slalom site in Prague, which will host the 2013 World Championships in September.

Congratulations to you all. Happy New Year everyone. I hope you have written down your goals for 2013. I have!

C1 legend Tony Estanguet goes out on top

Legendary French C1 triple Olympic Champion Tony Estanguet, 34, has today announced his retirement from canoe slalom. He truly leaves on top with gold in London his third Olympic gold, in addition to his three individual C1 World Championship titles, 2 World Championship C1 team medals, twice World Cup Champion and three times European Champion. He was the French flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

C1 legend Tony Estanguet (photo courtesy of AE Photos http://www.aephotos.co.uk)

His career at the top of the sport started more than 18 years ago competing against Michal Martikan as juniors in 1994, then with his first senior medal at the Tres Coroas World’s in Brazil back in 1997 (silver). He will be deeply missed at the Troja World’s in Prague next year. He goes out with legend status to rival American’s Lugbill & Hearn.

I was lucky enough to meet Tony a few times, watch him train and compete. He has an exciting smooth style to his paddling. I am sure we will still see him on the bank at the World’s and Rio Olympics helping the next generation of paddlers. He has been elected on to the IOC Athletes’ Commission on which he will serve for eight years. Good luck Tony in your next endeavours.


Lee Valley from water’s level

After writing about Lee Valley for the anticipated Olympic canoe slalom races for more than two years, I finally had the opportunity to view it from water level. The Olympic course is harder than if looks! It is tiring, the drops are big and visibility down a pending drop is very limited so in slalom you would really have to know your exact line. I was surprised how boily the sides of the course are.

I have been asked to contribute to the ICF Planet Canoe, describing this use of social media in communicating Olympic canoeing.


It was observed that my boat is a little long!

2012 World Cup Series Standings

World Cup 1 in Cardiff (photo courtesy of Michael Barnett)

The five series 2012 World Cup series wound up in Bratislava at the end of July.

The respective World Cup winners in all five classes were:

K1M – Etienne Daille, France

K1W – Ursa Kragelj, Slovenia

C1M – Alexander Slafkovsky, Slovakia

C1W – Rosalyn Lawrence, Australia

C2 – Pierre Labarelle & Nicolas Peschier, France

Off the London2012 Olympians, Jana Dukatova from Slovakia after missing out on a medal on the Lee Valley course, won both the Prague and Bratislava World Cup races.

It is anticipated that there will be several Olympian’s retiring in the aftermath of London 2012. These are as yet unknown but could potentially include Stepanka Hilgertova, Helmut Oblinger, David Ford, Campbell Walsh, may be also Michal Martikan who designed the 4th World Cup race in Prague immediately after the Olympics but did not complete in either race.

More news will follow as it is confirmed.

The Olympic Lee Valley Whitewater Centre is now open to the public. It will be the site of the ICF World Championships in 2015. In the more immediate future the 1st World Cup race returns to Cardiff Whitewater centre in 2013.

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.  https://unofficialolympiccanoeslalom.wordpress.com. 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 www.canoeslalom.co.uk , 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’ www.convio.com/social-media.

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, Sportscene.tv and International Canoe Federation www.canoeicf.com . 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 www.mb23photography.com, Antony Edmonds www.aephotos.co.uk, Rob van Bommel www.sportscene.tv  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