The journey for Matt and I started one flight earlier than Jake and Elliott’s. After spending the previous day packing limited amounts of clothing and far too much paddling gear, everything was set to go. We flew out of Belfast city airport, and met Jake and Elliott in Heathrow. Four hours and several very unhappy baggage handlers later our boats were on the plane, and we wouldn’t be seeing them again until we were in Brazil. The next day of travel went fairly smoothly, being met in Sao Paulo, put to the front of every queue and being put on an earlier flight was an added bonus.
Flying in over Foz we were met with impressive views of the Itiapu dam. After checking into the hotel, we were straight to the course where we were welcomed and given a short tour of the area, including warnings about sting rays and alligators, just two of the many things out to get us!
For me training didn’t go as well as I had hoped. It took a long time to get used to the course, and I think the added pressure of so many people on the water at once didn’t help. I was finding it difficult not to get frustrated as the time went on and things just didn’t seem to be going my way on the water. However, I think that paddling such busy slots was all good experience, as they won’t be getting any quieter in the future!
Off the water I was really enjoying Brazil. We got to see all the main attractions, including the Itiapu Dam, the ‘Parque das Aves’ (A bird park) and the impressive Iguacu Falls. The weather was very mixed, although always warm. We experienced some periods of extremely heavy rain which unlike on home waters didn’t seem to help the river level much. As we got closer to racing however, the weather settled for us.
Going into racing I wasn’t sure what to expect of myself. Obviously I wanted to race well, but with this being my first international competition I had no idea where I might place amongst others. I was pleased with all my paddling over the racing period. After first runs, I could see that I had the pace to progress to the semi-finals, however, touches let me down. I went into my second run knowing all I had to do was replicate my first run minus the touches!
The top half of my second run was some of the best paddling I have done, however, a missed line on the exit of gate nine left me playing catch up over the next few gates, another mistake at gate 16 and 17 left me just shy of the top 40. Although this was slightly disappointing I was very pleased with how I raced, things went well for me both on and off the water.
This competition has been a steep learning curve for me, but has also given me confidence going into the summer racing season. The next major competition is the European championships in Krakow, Poland. I can’t wait to get back on the start line and intend to compete in as many domestic races as possible between now and then. It’s all about building experience which can be used in years to come!
Thanks very much to Matt McKnight for being coach, taxi driver, psychologist and generally keeping Jake and I in check for three weeks! Finally thanks to the Canoe Association of Northern Ireland for their support throughout the trip