It’s now Thursday 9th July and it has officially been announced that I will be heading to the World Championships in Milan. I raced in both the Paracanoe KL3 and VL3 200m races which, along with the World Championships selection, happened to be the National Championship. I had forgotten that fact until the Friday night before when I got an email mentioning it. I don’t normally get too nervous before racing but for some reason this time I felt anxious. Despite all the exercises I normally use to “manage my chimp”, I didn’t really settle until I arrived at the lake 90mins before the first race.
The Saturday consisted of two kayak races which were three hours apart. Being a Paralympic discipline, with potential to qualify a boat for Rio at this years World Championships, it has priority over the Va’a races. Qualifying a Rio spot would also earn a first point towards Paralympic selection (the first athlete to earn two points gets to compete in Rio, 1 point is available for the athlete who qualifies the boat space while the 2nd and possibly 3rd point chances will be in a regatta next June). Once again we had a head wind to battle against. In spite of this I felt I raced better than any previous outing in the kayak and although I finished fourth was pleased with my performance. It was also good to hear both my coach and competitors comment on my improvement. Although I was fourth on the day, one of the competitors in front of me was Patrick O’Leary (no surprises as to where he is from) and so I was awarded a bronze medal for my efforts. It also rules out any easy road to Rio by transferring to Canoe Ireland!!
Sunday morning the wind had settled and the sun was out. I had two Va’a races to do, which in spite of only paddling a handful of times this year, is still my preferred discipline. It is a big physical brute to paddle which seams to suit me well. My first run went especially well and I made sure to push myself all the way to the line and felt well in control of both the boat and my posture. I posted the fastest time I have done in Nottingham and certainly felt like it was a strong platform to build on. The second race also went well but I think the weekend had started to take their toll as I didn’t finish the race in the same way as on the first run. Still it was enough to give me two clear wins and bring home the National title. I was very pleased with this as it has been quite a frustrating year in terms of changes in both classification and discipline but this helped my take note of the improvements I have seen.
I now have a few weeks to work hard, get fitter, faster and stronger before heading to the World Championships in Milan where I hope to improve on these recent performances. I will enjoy getting to race alongside team mate Martin Tweedie, and also last years World Champion, who beat me at last years European Championships, before he was then reclassified at the World Championships and scraped past Martin. Needless to say we all feel that top step is there for the taking!!
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