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!

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 TheTimes.co.uk

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 canoeicf.com). 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 http://www.aephotos.co.uk

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 www.canoeslalom.co.uk, www.LondonOlympic2012.comwww.thesportfeed.com, www.canoeslalomworld.com, 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 www.bcu.org.uk. For now, au revoir.

John

Support from the bank: The coach

The coach plays a pivotal role in supporting the athlete towards that ‘Ultimate Run’. However, this is not a short term partnership as the coach and athlete will have spent years working together to hone their performance. Each of the major nations competing at Lee Valley starting on Sunday has strong management and coaching support teams, who have been working for years to develop future paddlers towards podium finishes.

Tim Baillie & Etienne Stott in training in winter training at Lee Valley (photo courtesy of Michael Barnett)

The sport has developed significantly since it reappeared in the Barcelona Olympics. At that time Great Britain had a strong heritage of World Championship medal performances and important developments in the quality of coaching. In 1992, the more affluent nations already had the availability of basic video cameras for video analysis. This is an area that has subsequently developed considerably in the last 20 years together with harnessing sport science to improve top level performance. One technical innovation was the use video analysis. “Dartfish software now helps us analyse and review our video footage” says Nick Smith, Technical Coach C2 Class, Podium Programme at GB Canoeing. Campbell Walsh, Olympic Silver Medallist from Beijing described how he has been using Dartfish for many years in both training and races to help choose the best lines and boat positions on the river. “We heavily use the split screen head-head function and slow motion with different racers to determine which lines are proving to be the most consistently fast. The differences in angle or position are too often too subtle to notice if we didn’t have this ability to watch both simultaneously and at a slower speed. We will use video clips from the demonstration runs before I race and use myself verses rivals in between my 2 competition runs. Then we look at the fastest on each section after the race as part of the review and learning process. In training, when I will complete the same sequence of gates many times with different techniques, I often using the split screen with the option of watching up to 4 clips on head-head to help understand the differences and determine which was faster”. Some examples of this technology can be found on YouTube or through the Sportscene website.

At a more basic coaching level the coach is able to walk the course that has been set and discuss how the water moves through the gatelines and the likely options or key strokes necessary to complete. In training the paddler can then run down the course, with the coach providing them feedback on what they actually did versus the ideal. Split times of different paddlers on one specific sequence of gates can be used to uncover where some paddlers are making up time or to evaluate different options. Again, in training the coaches are able to set a course of gates to challenge and test the paddlers.

David Florence on the podium following his C1 win at The Cardiff World Cup race (photo courtesy of Michael Barnett)

At the national team levels, the coaches are invariably ex-elite paddlers themselves. The GB Podium coaches are led by Jurg Gotz, the Swiss national team member 1974-1984 who has coached paddlers at all 5 of the last Olympics. He heads a team of technical coaches: Paul Ratcliffe, Sydney Olympic silver medallist; Mark Delaney, Barcelona & Atlanta C1 paddler who coached David Florence to silver in Beijing and Nick Smith, Sydney & Athens C2 paddler. London2012 will mark the fourth Olympic Games led by GB Canoeing Performance Director, John Anderson MBE. Beyond the technical coaches the team is also supported by an extensive group of performance lifestyle advisor, strength & conditioning specialist, programme manager, physiotherapist, sports psychologist and performance analyst. Nick Smith added; “We gain an uplifting feeling of helping these athletes culminate years of work and preparation for the biggest event in our sport.”

Many of the coaches at a club level are ex-paddlers or parents of paddlers. The UK has an extensive club coaching scheme and network. The role of the coach involves hours standing on cold and wet river banks. Russ Smith, National Competition Development Coach for Canoe England and who himself won a gold medal in the K1M team event at the 1987 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships in Bourg St Maurice said; “As to the opportunities for coaching slalom I believe that the Olympics being in the UK will open up our sport to a whole new batch of potential paddlers and coaches/parents. The spectacle of whitewater slalom being seen either live or via TV beamed straight into the home is truly a sight to see. For those who would wish to get involved in coaching try the UK Home Nation websites (below) or more information on slalom coaching can be obtained through http://www.canoeslalom.co.uk/info/slalom_coach_ed_programme.htm. Jimmy Jayes, a British National Champion in the 1980’s and a prominent figure in slalom coaching commented; “The technical knowledge of the coaches and athletes is still the deciding factor in performing well. This needs to have been made 100% solid in training and previous races and then carried over to be automatic for the BIG EVENT!” Nick concludes by describing what will make the Olympic medallists; “As usual in our sport, a bit of luck with the water but over and above is a calm head and ability to deliver on the hardest of whitewater courses.”

Tomorrow’s post will look at the role of the Judge in canoe slalom and describe more specifics of the rules of the sport. Please comment here or via @gregiej on Twitter.

http://www.canoe-england.org.uk http://www.canoescotland.org http://www.canoewales.com http://www.cani.org.uk