Talent and Performance News May 2014

UK Sport Girls4Gold Programme

Many congratulations to Afton Fitzhenry who has been selected as a full time sprint athlete on the GB Canoeing Programme. She was selected based on her successful confirmation through the Girls4Gold project and will commence her training programme in July. Afton is pictured with CANI council members Liz McCreery and Malcolm Kerry, staff members Ashley Hunter and Alex McCloy, and Sport NI Talent Consultant Leslie Dewart.

afton1 afton2

Afton has documented her experiences of being part of the Girls4Gold programme and her hopes and ambitions in the future, below;

“To think that this moment has come from a night whilst researching opportunities to further my kayaking. I applied for Girls4Gold run by GB Canoeing and UK Sport thinking it would be perfect but what are the chances. I read the FAQs, these outlined the bare bones of the process from selection to faze 1 to the confirmation camp of phase 4 – little did I know what a ride I would be in for.

Each phase has come with its own memories from taking measurements to absolutely pushing yourself to the point you could do know more – Schwinn bike, still give s me shudders! The first email I got titled Girls4Gold Successful, I nearly died on the spot, my flights were booked by that night! My phase 1 assessment was in the Copper Box, Olympic Park, London, where I met Angela Hannah – GB senior women’s kayaker. She was inspirational, she chatted so casually but yet every word was so powerful!


Again I received another acceptance email for the each phase until after phase 3. During the two weeks after phase 3 we were expecting to get a phone call to tell us whether we had been accepted or not. Monday 10th March 2014. I hear of girls who I was friends with had received calls that was 3 out of a possible 12 spaces gone – they were the only ones I knew off so I thought I hadn’t got it. I decided to go to the swimming pool to take my brother and sister for their lessons to take my mind off it as I couldn’t focus on anything. 6.00pm. I was talking to my mum about how everything I had done started from that very pool were I swam competitively to the talent ID day held by the Canoe Association of Northern Ireland (CANI). My phone rang. I just stared at it; the contact was read Stewart UK Sport. My mum frantically told me to answer it as I ran up the stairs to try and hear him. Finally it was a yes. I must have looked daft, pacing up and down with a Cheshire cat smile on my face. I definitely couldn’t focus now…

The confirmation camp was at the National Watersports Centre, Nottingham, were we trained for 6 weeks. Every day was an exciting one; we trained as full time athletes and were monitored through scales, challenges and time trials every week. The even compared us to the last Girls4Gold group – Angela Hannah’s!! During this we all became a tight bunch even though we were competing against each other we still have many memorable times. We were challenged to see how we would react in various was one such way was a 4km run, we all killed ourselves to go as fast as possible only to be told to keep going for another km. There were various reactions, I just looked at our coach – as if I didn’t hear him right and then my legs kept coming, by this point you were used to a constant pain. Others threw up as they ran and some cried.


Time trials were a vital part of assessment for the C1 it was a 200m race were your technique was assessed as well as time. Others were doing or had completed and some people were either really frustrated or happy, you could feel the tension. It was my turn to step up. I made my way to the start and tried to keep the boat straight but also be ready to go. The camera as ready, the bus started rolling, Ready Set Go!!! I was off it was an ok start – not the quickest I have done but the boat was moving in control, stroke, stroke that’s what was going through my head before I knew I had 50m left I could hear my coach shouting!! I keep going right through the finish. I saw a smile grow on their faces 1:10 for 200m the fastest in the group and only 20 seconds of the world champion and over 10 seconds clear of my competition. I still feel I could have gone faster but you only get one chance at it.

On the final night we had a formal dinner with the heads of the program and our coaches. We had various movies played of our time on the camp we were all crying of laughter. Our coach’s talk then turned to the last day. He described what we were doing and then said “and we will see you all again in July when the even harder work begins…” We all looked at each other in shock and then it hit me. I am a full time GB Canoeing athlete on route to the Tokyo Games. I was still in shock for the next couple of days.

Over the next few years I am on a steep progression of 6 training years to be ready to race in Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Ulster Surf Kayak & Waveski Competition 3

Ulster Surf Kayak & Waveski Competition 3 was held at Falcarragh Beach 10 May, the following report is provided by James O’Donnell;

‘After meeting up at Magheroraty harbour in the morning, it was decided to move the comp to the nearby beach of Falcarragh. On arriving at Falcarragh the wave conditions were very small, but fortunately with the pushing tide conditions, began to improve. The judging team of Shambles & Andy were looking at the competitors to make the best of the 2-3ft set waves that were coming through in each heat. With the pick of the days heats being the Men’s HP final and the Plastic/novice final, where some great surfing was on display.
It was fantastic to see the junior Development Squad taking part, not only in the junior classes, but also in the open classes and wave ski class!

The heavy rain in the middle of the day didn’t dampen the spirits of the competitors, and when the sun came out for the last few heats, it was like an actual summer’s day!

surf (3) surf (2) surf (1)

Thanks to James O’Donnell of Rapid Kayaking for organising the comp and for sponsoring the prizes.

Thanks to the judging team of Seamus “Shambles” McGoldrick & Andy Kilfeather.
Also thanks to Paul “Harry” Harrington, Robbie Redmond & Denis McDyre for your help and input’.


  1. Sean Young
  2. Bryan McGinley
  3. Alwyn Lamont
  4. Breege Ferry
  5. Heike Kemmerer & Barry McKinney & Frances Murphy
  6. Ciaran O’Donnell & Declan McGinley
  7. Michael Gallagher
  8. Gerry Bryceland & Katarzyna Sujecka
  9. Andrew Lammont & Kate Cahier
  10. Jaroslaw Majkusiak


  1. Mathew Lamont
  2. Meabh Lynch
  3. Emil Lazarescu
  4. Megan Gamble


  1. Mathew Lamont
  2. Emil Lazarescu
  3. Sofia Lazarescu


  1. James O’Donnell
  2. Dennis McDyre


  1. Andy McClelland
  2. Conor O’Donnell
  3. Corin King
  4. Eoin Halliday
  5. Dennis McDyre & Robbie Redmond


  1. Andy McClelland
  2. Corin King
  3. James O’Donnell
  4. Emil Lazarescu


  1. Robbie Redmond
  2. Mathew Lamont
  3. Meabh Lynch
  4. Andrew Lamont & Sofia Lazarescu

Development Squad News

Surf Squad.
Best wishes to Matthew Lamont (Squad member) and Chris Hobson (AIP Athlete) who travelled to Spain to take part in the Mundaka Open. Full results and report in next month’s e-zine. The development squad and AIP athletes are also looking forward to travelling to the European Championships in Santa Cruz in July.

Slalom Squad.
The slalom talent and development squad are training hard and held a two day training weekend at Shaw’s Bridge over the 10th and 11th of May. Midweek coaching sessions have also been added to the squad for the next six months. It is hoped that the athletes will reap the rewards of this extra coaching in competition results throughout the season.

Sprint Squad.
Darragh Murphy travelled to the BCU Canoe Sprint Racing Regatta in Nottingham during April and is looking forward to attending other regattas throughout the season while special mention to para canoe athlete Jonathan Young who won the 200m races in both the LTA V1 and LTA K1 at the May BCU Canoe Sprint Racing Regatta in Nottingham during May. Best wishes to Jonny as he prepares to compete in the GB Para Canoe Selection races in June.

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