World Paddle Awards tonight in Augsburg

Tonight (May 9th) the inaugural World Paddle Awards ceremony kick-off in Augsburg at the stunning Augsburg Rathaus Goldener Saal. As many as 400 people are expected to attend this star studded event, with the finalists, nominees, faculty and sponsors.

Alongside the Eiskanal with Nick Harding
Alongside the Eiskanal with Nick Harding

This is highly poignant for me realizing the journey over the last 25 years desperately trying to engage the media with press releases to publish a few column inches in print media.

Today we have engaged sponsors and media supporting this fantastic event. See the World Paddle Awards website. I will report on these inspiring awards ceremony and look forward to listening to the winners.

ECA event poster
ECA event poster

It is an exciting weekend in Augsburg with the ECA Wildwater Sprint & Boater-Cross race on the Eiskanal. Qualification is today and finals tomorrow.



K1W – Kayak Women’s Single

Ladies kayak deserve their own day and post rather than rolling into one K1 post. Yesterday took a first look at the four different classes with K1M. Today – is K1W (pronounced kay-one-women), meaning a female athlete paddling a single one seater closed cockpit kayak. Again let’s look at the equipment, pros and cons and some top paddlers past and present to look out for.

Great Britain’s K1W Fiona Pennie at the Cardiff World Cup race (photo courtesy of Michael Barnett)

Ladies (women’s) kayak are worthy of true recognition as they paddle the same 350cm kayaks as the K1M, on the same whitewater and through the same set of slalom gates. If you want to see the best use of whitewater watch the K1W. They have narrower shoulders and less muscle mass and shorter levers. Their paddles (blades as we call them) are invariably about 10cm shorter. Ladies thus rely less on brute strength and more on good technique and using the water to help them negotiate the gates. There have been a few exceptions Margit Messelhauser (1985 Augsburg World Champion) was incredibly strong and Liz Sharman had great speed and a longer paddle. Liz was the only slalom paddler I can recall to compete in the Olympics in sprint canoeing (Seoul 1988)! In his book ‘Every Second Counts’, Jimmy Jayes described that K1W were doing an average 70 strokes per minute in the gates and up to 80 strokes per minute at the start and finish, so less than the men, partly because they also tend to hang on to the stronger for a longer time. I recall going with Alan Edge, Rachel Crosbee (nee Fox), Karen Like (nee Davies), Lynn Simpson and Maria Francis to meet Professor Craig Sharpe at Northwick Park (BOMC) for the first ever physiology testing in canoe slalom. I remember that Karen had the least strength, lowest endurance, and least speed of the four, however, it should be noted she won the Bala Mill Prem the next weekend and has a K1W team bronze medal from the 1985 Worlds in Augsburg. That is not to say that women are not as physically fit as the men. At this level the K1W are also out for early morning whitewater training before a rest and a second session in the afternoon like the men.

There is a significant move by the International Canoe Federation (ICF) and national federation to gender equality. The number of female athletes in canoeing, including canoe slalom is increasing as well as in leadership roles within technical committees. As we will discuss tomorrow, a ladies category was introduced in C1 in 2009. This has not yet become an Olympic category and the C2 event is still a men’s class, but one expects that this will change in time too.

One to watch. Australia’s Jessica Fox at Cardiff World Cup race. What would Bill Endicott make of this? (photo courtesy of Michael Barnett).

Great Britain has also shown consistency in K1W at the Worlds since 1979.

The GB World Championship individual K1W medallists are:

Liz Sharman (Silver 1979 Jonquiere, Gold 1983 Merano & Gold 1987 Bourg St Maurice), Jane Roderick (Silver 1983 Merano), Lynn Simpson (Gold 1995 Nottingham), Fiona Pennie (Silver 2006 Prague) and Lizzie Neave (Bronze 2009 La Seu d’Urgell).

GB Team K1W medallists are:

Liz Sharman, Jane Roderick & Susan Small (Silver 1981 Bala), Liz Sharman, Jane Roderick & Susan Garriock (Silver 1983 Merano), Liz Sharman, Gail Allen & Karen Davies (Bronze 1985 Augsburg), Maria Francis, Rachel Crosbee & Lyn Simpson (Bronze 1993 Mezzana), Lynn Simpson, Rachel Crosbee & Heather Corrie (Silver 1995 Nottingham & Bronze 1997 Tres Coroas), Heather Corrie, Rachel  Crosbee & Amy Casson (Bronze 1999 La Seu d’Urgell), Helen Reeves, Laura Blakeman & Heather Corrie (Bronze 2002 Bourg St Maurice & bronze 2003 Augsburg), Heather Corrie, Kimberley Walsh & Laura Blakeman (Silver 2005 Penrith), Fiona Pennie, Laura Blakeman & Lizzie Neave (Bronze 2007 Foz do Iguacu) and Lizzie Neave, Louise Donnington & Laura Blakeman (Gold 2009 La Seu d’Urgell).

GB Olympic K1W medallist is:

Helen Reeves (Bronze 2004 Athens).

Lizzie Neave on the Cardiff Whitewater course at World Cup 1 (photo courtesy of Michael Barnett)

As you can see from the above Lizzie Neave already has one World Champions K1W team bronze and an individual bronze medal. As mentioned before, Lizzie became British K1M champion in 2005 as a junior showing us her true future potential. See my previous posts for my Punters Guide to Olympic Form and analysis of the paddlers from other nations to watch. Stepanka Hilgertova (Czech Republic) is a double Olympic champion and Corinna Kuhnle (Austria) is only the second K1W paddler to win two successive World Championships. Tomorrow’s post will look at the C1.


The Lee Valley Whitewater centre new Olympic canoe slalom venue

The wonderful new Olympic venue between Waltham Cross and Waltham Abbey is a most incredible development in our sport. Back in the days when the Holme Pierrepont artificial slalom course in Nottingham opened in 1986 we have longed for a World Class venue in the London & South East area of the UK. The World’s top elite slalom paddlers have descended upon this purpose built new venue for the Olympic test event last year and to train on the course ahead of this month’s Olympics. The course was also used as the selection venue for the 3 races which made up the Great Britain team selection race in April.

We are proud that the Lee Valley course was the first newly constructed Olympic venue for London2012 to be completed. Princess Royal officially opened the £31 million venue on December 9th, 2010. The Olympic course is 300 metres long and fed from a 10,000 square metre enclosed lake. The 5 massive pumps bring water to the top of the course, which then descends 13,000 litres of water per second, with a drop of 5.5 metres, a slope of 1.8% and enough to fill a 25m swimming pool in 30 seconds. The water is slightly chlorinated and filtered so the water is clear, which in itself is an unique experience.

David Florence & Richard Hounslow negotiating the whitewater as part of the Great Britain Olympic team selection races at Lee Valley (photo courtesy of Michael Barnett)

The first Olympic artificial slalom course was built for the Munich Olympics in 1972 and locally named the Eiskanal (Ice Canal) in Augsburg. The now common circular course design, meaning the start and finish are approximately in the same area of the site was then developed for La Seu d’Urgell for the Barcelona Olympics, Penrith White Water course for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, the Heleniko Whitewater stadium, Athens in 2004 and Shunyi, Beijing in 2008. The Lee Valley also has the great canoe lift which enables paddlers and white water rafts to travel on a large conveyor belt back to the start of the course. There are now other artifical courses in the UK, notably Cardiff which was used last month for the ICF World Cup race 1. The standard of the whitewater increases each time and on recently revisiting the Nottingham Holme Pierrepont course I was shocked at how tame it now appears. There is a proposed course for the Rio Olympics in 2016. These modern artificial slalom course are made of a concrete channel in which obstacles are bolted underwater to create the required turbulence.

Construction of the Lee Valley Olympic canoe slalom course

Many of the ex-Olympic competitors who are now coaches and team managers have themselves not yet been able to compete on this excellent white water. In September 2012, the course will again open to the public subject to a paddler competence to safely paddle on the two courses. I will be in the line. For the 5 days of the Olympic games itself there will be 12,000 spectator stadium seating, which is now installed. Post Olympics the site, which is considered the best in the world, will host the 2015 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships.

More details will follow in subsequent posts on how to get to the venue, what to expect at the Olympic race events. I am pleased too that, Michael Barnett ( is now supplying me with excellent photos to add a new dimension to this blog. I will also interview Michael on his tips to taking excellent canoe slalom photographs. Tomorrow’s post will answer a question raised on the relevance of my title ‘Punters Guide to Form’.