British canoeing team targets triple medal haul at London 2012
Wednesday, 04 April 2012
April 4 - Britain is aiming for three canoe slalom and sprint medals at this summer's Olympic Games, GB Canoeing performance director John Anderson said today.
Three days of racing from next Friday (April 13) will determine which canoe slalom athletes are selected to represent Britain on the water at the Lee Valley White Water Centre at London 2012.
It is expected that the British Olympic Association (BOA) will confirm the canoe slalom team on April 25.
"The aspiration is to get three medals between slalom and sprint," Anderson commented ahead of the selection trials.
"Our athletes are absolutely dedicated to their sport.
"[They] have put in 10,000 hours of preparation to get to where they are today and are absolutely some of the most talented athletes in the world that we have been privileged to watch."
The selection trials are supported by Tesco, one of the organisations that has funded canoe slalom in recent years.
Another key funder has been the National Lottery which Anderson made a point of thanking today for its support since 1997.
"Prior to Lottery funding there was very little... Since then we have been able to create a system capable of taking on the rest of the world," he said.
Britain will have four canoe slalom boats going into the Games, one in each of the four Olympic classes: women's kayak single (WK1), men's kayak single (MK1), men's canoe single (MC1) and men's canoe double (MC2).
Anderson said that Britain is targeting three medals this summer, and insisted that the squad was "absolutely capable" of making one of those a gold.
"My aim is to have at least three boats per class capable of challenging for the podium," he said.
"It has tended to be that way in the last three Olympics.
"We did not qualify a C2 for Beijing which was really disappointing for us.
"But we came back and regrouped and now it [C2] is a real strength."
Fiona Pennie (pictured top), who competed in the Beijing Games four years ago, may boast a slight advantage over Lizzie Neave, Laura Blakeman and Louise Donington in the battle for the one place on offer in WK1.
In the men's event, Campbell Walsh (pictured above) could become the first British canoe slalom competitor to make it to three successive Olympic Games.
"Not many of us [here today] will be going to the Olympics," he told insidethegames.
However, he insisted he was not thinking of winning gold: "I am not looking at it as third time lucky.
"It will be tough – the last couple of years I have not been challenging for golds at major championships.
"[But] I've been pretty good recently and there is always the possibility."
The winner of a silver medal at Athens 2004, former World Cup and European champion Walsh will be pushed hard by Richard Hounslow while youngster Tom Brady and Huw Swetnam are also harbouring ambitions of a place at the Olympics.
In MC1, David Florence – who claimed silver in Beijing – is the favourite to qualify ahead of Hounslow, who came fourth at last year's World Championships, and Mark Proctor.
In MC2, Florence and Hounslow will square up against Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott, and young pair Rhys Davies and Matt Lister.
Next weekend three races will take place at Lee Valley with the best two race results of each competitor being used to determine selection.
Athletes can use the results from the 2011 World Championships to count towards their 'best two'.
At the course today, alongside the 2012 medal hopes, was the British team from Munich 1972 – the first Olympics to feature canoe slalom.
Al though Tim Brabants scooped sprint kayak gold in Beijing, Britain picked up its first canoe slalom medal at Barcelona 1992 through Gareth Marriott, and has won a further four slalom medals in subsequent Games.
Lee Valley was the first Olympic venue to be built and opened to the public when it was unveiled last April.
It was also the first Olympic venue to win the right to host a major international competition – the World Canoe Slalom Championships in 2015.
With 30,000 visitors coming to Lee Valley to take to the white water course since its construction it is already providing an early legacy for London 2012.
On top of this, it is only the second white water centre in Olympic history to have two courses; the second is a 'legacy loop' over which beginners and canoeing enthusiasts can hone their skills.
"As soon as London won the Games and we knew there would be a slalom course here we got involved in the design of the facility," Anderson said.
"Three of our staff here were involved in designing the model.
"The legacy value of this course is above and beyond, it really is."
He added: "I'd like to think we'll have a fantastic Olympic competition here that captures the public's imagination.
"I'm absolutely convinced that this facility will be a commercial success."
The Olympic canoe slalom at Lee Valley this summer takes place between July 29 and August 2.
To read more on Walsh and the rest of the British hopefuls click here.