When going gets tough, the tough get going


CANOEING DIARY:I’m just back from spending nine days at the Olympic course and things couldn’t be going better

AT HOME training twice a day, every day. A lonely place? Yeah . . . Everyone going to the Olympics knows what I’m talking about . . . Doing it on your own, training on your own.

But it’s a lonely place for anyone involved in an Olympic sport. The limelight really falls on you every four years and that depends how your results pan out. It can be a very short time if you don’t have a good Olympic Games. It’s easier for me when I’m abroad, when I’m on a good facility, have a good training partner.

I’m just back from spending nine days at the Olympic course. It’s heavy going, very tough. It’s a step above what I’d normally be racing at the World Cups. They are pumping 13 tons of water a second down the course.

That and how steep it is makes the difference, how much the water transfers from start to finish. The European Championships, where I qualified for the Olympics, was physically an easier course.

This is my third Games now. It was difficult after coming fourth in the last Olympics to make the decision to try again. Going into Beijing I didn’t know if I would continue or if that was the end. It was around Christmas time of 2008 when I decided I wanted to keep going. It was a difficult decision because it becomes your life.

A lot of things are put on hold. When you are out of the country 200 days a year it’s hard to have a sense of normality of family and friends. Yes, to keep going was a difficult decision.

The way I see it is, if I got to fourth in Beijing there is nothing to stop me going one or two or three better. I made one mistake last time that knocked me back. I just have to find those extra few seconds.

Is winning an Olympic medal the thing that drives me? No, it’s probably not that simple. Going back, I can still vividly remember the day I decided about the sport. I was 16 years old.

I was at home watching Ian Wiley on television at the Atlanta Olympics. I had been canoeing since the age of 12 and I remember that day. I remember thinking that’s what I want to do. Winning an Olympic medal is the dream goal.

I love this sport. I enjoy the training although it’s often painful. I think I’m lucky. I’m not making a career like a professional rugby player would, the money they get. But I have been able to make a sporting career out of it and I feel privileged to have been able to do that.

There is a sense of the perfectionist about me. I love the idea of having a perfect run. It’s so elusive. When it works out it’s incredible. Whether it’s in a race or in training it’s incredible.

Doubts? Yeah I definitely had feelings of doubt on more than one occasion. It’s unusual to get it during training because in training you don’t go out and do what you’re good at because it makes you feel good.

You go out to improve and make mistakes and learn from that. It’s part of the process.

But yeah, I have sometimes asked myself what I’m doing here. I did it after the Athens Olympics. Coming into that I’d just won a World Cup gold medal that year, I was ranked in the top 10 in the world.

I was looking forward to a really good Olympic Games and it didn’t work out. I had that feeling afterwards. What the hell am I doing? That was painful.

Just time turned me around. What turns people around I don’t know. I think it’s built into a lot of athletes. They get up and they walk.

That’s human nature. People get over tragedy in all aspects of life and that’s what makes humans incredible. Eventually you get up and you move on.

My goal is always the same. I am not lined up against the other competitors. I am not a boxer in the ring. It’s me against the clock and the water and the gates. This year I had one major test. Everything was geared towards making sure I qualified. Here I am.

After Beijing I had one season that was very good. In 2010 problems started with severe shoulder pain. I’d two surgeries to fix it. I’d problems with tonsillitis and had to get my tonsils out. The years 2010 and 2011 were dark for me. The institute of sport have put a team of professional people around me this year and I’ve had no interruptions.

The result is qualification.

I’m in a different place from where I was last September when I had my first attempt to qualify. I have to say I feel very good. There were 31 people going for the two places remaining for Europe at the European Championships and I took the first one of those. Yeah, I’m happy where I am now.

Physically and mentally.

“I was at home watching Ian Wiley on television at the Atlanta Olympics. I had been canoeing since the age of 12 and I remember thinking that’s what I want to do. Winning an Olympic medal is the dream goal