2013 has been an action packed year for Performance Canoeing and Kayaking here in Northern Ireland; and also for many of our athletes who have travelled to other parts of the world to train and compete. At CANI, we have been hugely impressed to see the progress, and the commitment to the sport, from all participants in the Performance Disciplines – from the youngest members just setting out on this pathway to those at the top of their game.
In Slalom, Hannah Craig and Ciaran Heurteau continue in their Road to Rio Programme, with an intense year of training and competition behind them. One of our longest standing junior members, Eoin Teague, qualified for the Irish Squad this year, and competed in the U23 & Junior Slalom World Championships, in Liptovsky Mikulas, Slovakia. Matt McKnight has also competed at a high level this year, joining Eoin in Slovakia as part of the U23 squad, and also competing at the 2013 ICF Worlds in Prague. Matt continues to bring a huge amount of his skill and enthusiasm to the junior members of our Slalom Development Squad. Matt has been joined on the Coaching side of things this year by Andy Hadfield, an ex-podium athlete from TeamGB, who is also currently coaching on the podium programme as well as jetting in to Belfast once a month to work with the squad. One of the more recent members to join the Slalom squad earlier this year, Beth Thompson, offers you an insight into what it’s like being part of the squad.
“I joined the N. Ireland Development Squad for slalom last year & I really enjoy being part of this squad. I have developed good friendships & we all help each other. We have great fun on & off the water; we’re constantly learning & being encouraged by our coaches- Matt Mc Knight & Andy Hadfield.
I train with the squad one weekend each month, usually at Shaw’s bridge. I am also a member of Lisburn City Paddlers so I get to practice in the Olympia pool & also go on Junior Hub river days. I also attend Ergo training which helps me with my core strength & fitness- when I can fit it in around my homework!
We need to have excellent fitness levels on & off the water to help us perform to the maximum of our abilities. In the squad we not only learn about kayaking but also the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Last summer the squad travelled to Lyon, France. This was a fantastic opportunity which pushed my canoeing skills to a new level!!! I am hoping to go back to France next year as well as travelling to England to compete.
This year I have participated in competitions at Shaw’s Bridge & WCC Dublin, winning bronze & silver medals. My aim for next year will be to get gold.
I really enjoy being part of the squad & would encourage other juniors to go it a go
Thanks to all the coaches
Another highlight for the development of Slalom here in Northern Ireland, was the opening of the new Slalom course at Gilford – designed with beginners in mind – this will hopefully introduce many more paddlers to this aspect of the sport.
In Sprint, one of the most major events ever to be hosted in Northern Ireland took place over the summer months, when CANI – with Canoeing Ireland – hosted The Irish Nationals at Castlewellan Forest Park, followed by the international WPFG sprint event the following weekend. This is the third largest international multi-sport event in the world and was a truly magnificent occasion. At the Irish Nationals, 9 different clubs, from across Northern Ireland and Eire, were represented, with a total of around 40 paddlers taking part, and at the WPFG around 10 nations were represented. Three key BCU officials had come on board to advise and assist in the running of both events, and CANI had a huge team of volunteers, both from within the membership, and also from Volunteer Now, who were co-ordinating the volunteers for the WPFG. Thanks again to all who took part, in whatever capacity. A full report of the event was published in the August edition of the e-zine.
Several of our junior racing paddlers have made huge progress this year, with Darragh Murphy of Erne Paddlers travelling to Nottingham twice this season, stepping up to compete in senior classes, and really doing himself proud.
One of the members who currently trains consistently with the CANI Sprint Development Squad, 16 year old Craig Wilson, gives you his breakdown of the year just past.
“Throughout this year the sprint squad has been to many events, ranging from club races to the British Nationals. In the early months of the year when it was too cold and dark to kayak, we had regular sessions on the Ergo machines to help us build strength and increase stamina. In early May, we journeyed across the border to Prosperous in County Kildare for our first race of the season. Then in June we headed west to Enniskillen (on the day before the G8 summit so lots of security everywhere!) for the NI K1 Boat Championship, and at the end of the month we made a long journey to Carrick-on Shannon for a marathon race.
Training continued throughout the summer until the Irish Nationals at Castlewellan, which was also a trial event for the World Police and Fire Games. The following week, some of the squad were involved in helping out at the WPFG kayak sprint event at Castlewellan. It was nice to meet kayakers from different parts of the world, and it was great to see several gold medals go to local participants. Squad training was reduced after this event. However, three members – Luke and Afton Fitzhenry and I, along with coach Malcolm Kerry kept up our training as we prepared for the British regatta at Nottingham in early September. All 4 of us did well in our categories, and we got a chance to see how tough the competition is at that level. Then as the days darkened again, it was back to the Ergos for more indoor training.
Overall the squad had a successful year – Luke achieved a couple of 2nd place finishes, Afton was also placed highly in a couple of races and I got several 3rd place finishes. Hopefully next year the squad will grow and achieve even more success.”
Craig Wilson – Sprint
In Surf, the highlight of the year had got to be Jake King’s success (see July e-zine) winning the World Championships out in Australia – the entire surf kayaking community was thrilled, as Jake took his place alongside all our past World Champions. Punching way above our weight yet again!! It was a great year for his elder brother Corin too, as well as fellow athletes Chris Hobson, Andy McClelland, Conor O’Donnell and Marty McCann (Waveski) all of whom have had either medal success, or hugely rewarding learning experiences, both at home and abroad.
Surf also hosted an event for the WPFG, and it was fantastic to see the intermingling of all the different athletes from many aspects of the sport of surf.
The surf kayak development squad has gone from strength to strength this year, with a core group of young paddlers beginning to really impress, and regular coaches Paul Harrington and Marty McCann providing world class coaching at each and every session.
Experiences have ranged from flat calm in the height of that glorious summer (no good for the surf – though there was still a lot of fun and skill development to be had!) through to the 12ft waves at the Irish Open, and everywhere else in between. The squad have trained monthly, they’ve enjoyed their first residential, and have really begun to work on some serious stuff. It’ll be interesting to see how 2014 unfolds!
For myself as Performance Officer, it’s been a great 12 months – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the organisational side of things, and have been so glad to see how well our athletes, both World Class and Squad members have developed. I’ve been equally impressed with the commitment of the club coaches to the ongoing development of the junior river hub days, and these are well worth getting involved with if you haven’t already. The Performance coaches too have been working hard to develop new skills though personalised professional training opportunities, made possible by funding from SportNI, so our workforce is impressive to say the least!
My time with CANI will be coming to an end in January – someone else’s name will be at the end of those zillions of emails that pop into your inboxes – so I wish you all well, and hope that those currently involved will stay focused and carry on with ever increasing success. And that any junior paddlers out there will seriously consider giving performance sport a go! Have a great Christmas and a Fantastic 2014.