The U23 World Championships in Brazil was my first ever International competition, not a bad one to start with!
The journey started in London when Elliott and myself met up with Ali and Matt to get checked in for our flight to Sao Paulo. From London we had 3 flights to get, one to Munich, one to Sao Paulo from Munich and one to Foz from Sao Paulo. The longest one being the middle flight which lasted 12 hours… Rougly 24 hours later we had arived in Foz airport with our boats arriving in one piece, thankfully. While Elliott, Ali, and myself waited in the airport, Matt went and sorted out the hire car. Once he had got the car we then strapped the boats to the roof and set off for the hotel which was about 20 minutes away, although it took slightly longer as we didnt exactly know our way!
Once we got to the hotel we checked in and then headed straight to the course to try and make the evening training slot. Unfortunately we didnt get to paddle as it to a while to get the boats quarantined and get our accreditation sorted. The next morning we got on the water for the first time and had a very enjoyable session getting to know the white water. The course was a bit different compared to normally paddling on Nottingham as it was a lot shallower, which my boat didn’t appreciate, and a lot narrower. Nonetheless it was a very nice white water course. The next 10 days training ran pretty smothely, apart from the odd alligator being minced in the pumps, and successfully as we got really accustomed to the course and were paddling well.
We did various different sessions such as speed tech, progs, halves, fulls and some physical sessions on the flat water. In between sessions we got to explore a lot of the local attractions that Foz has to offer, such as the bird park, the zoo, the Itaipu Dam and the Falls which is the biggest attraction of the area. For the Falls Matt, Ali and myself got a powerboat tour all the way up to the bottom of the waterfalls which was amazing.
After a very good block of training it was finally time to race. The racing started with the Opening Ceromony on the evening before racing. The Opening ceremony was held on the grounds of the Itaipu dam, where the course is also situated. All the teams got together for a few speeches from the ICF and Itaipu Dam, and then we got to go to the dam and they lit the whole thing up for us!
I found out that night that I was going to be the first competitor down the course, this sort of got to my head a bit and made me a bit more nervous than I already was but some wise words from Matt got those thoughts to disappear! My first run didn’t go very well with me getting the wrong line though gates 6 to 7 meaning I had to paddle back to get 7 but it was a hard paddle back and I ended up missing 7 and had to paddle on. I tried to not let this get to my and and put a good finish to my run but unfortunately I had a poor bottom section and missed two more gates. I was very disappointed to say the least but I put this run behind me after a really good brief and video review with Matt.
It was then time for my second run a couple of hours later and I felt a lot more confident going into it. The first few gates I did very well but then it came to gates 6 to 7 and I messed up my line again and missed gate 7… But I was able to get into the eddy and really power back up to get gate 7 but this cost me 11 seconds. I put this behind me and put down a very solid run from here, but with a few touches. It was very tense whether I was going to make it into the semi final after my penalties and the paddle back but I just about made it in!
My semi final run was 2 days later and I was feeling pretty good going into it. I had a good course walk with Matt and had a clear plan in my head of what I needed to do. On the start line the nerves started to build but I managed to keep a clear head. The starter then counted down and I was off. From the start I was paddling really well and nailed the starting move. I came into the same stopper as I messed up before and got it really well this time. Half way down the course, at gate 10, I peeled out of the upstream and came a bit too tight to gate 11 giving me a bad line through the next gate. This poor lined cause me to lose my edge, roll and miss gate 12 that I couldnt go back for. I paddled on knowing that I won’t have put down a competitive time but I finished the course pretty well, albeit a few touches. I was smiling at the bottom of the course straight after my run as I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the world circuit and the opportunity to be competing at the U23 World Championships.
I would like to say a huge thank you to CANI for the support the gave me for this race and also to Matt McKnight for coming out and being a fantastic coach as always.