Katie, Tom and Harvey were invited by their canoe slalom England coaches to spend 10 days of June competing in international races in Germany, Austria and Slovakia. It was the first international racing experience for Katie and the second for Tom and Harvey, although not at the same venues. They were all looking forward to training and racing with similar aged competitors from around the world, including USA, Canada and New Zealand; on courses with notorious features such as ‘zoom flume’ and the ‘big drop’ at Bratislava which they had only seen so far on youtube.
The first day of racing quickly set the flavour of the whole week. There would be no concessions for age – the course was difficult and used all the hardest features. There was no room for error, a missed gate would mean a penalty preventing them from qualifying for the final. It was a quick lesson for Katie who failed to qualify on the first day but managed to qualify on the second day and then finish 9th, a fantastic achievement on such a tricky course.. Tom’s success started on day one – after a good initial qualifying run, he then pulled out all the stops to finish 3rd out of 48.
Harvey and Tom’s C2 racing started well in Augsburg. They beat 6 other J18 teams on both days, guaranteeing the top spot on the podium.
The next stop was Flattach in Austria, a beautiful natural white water site situated in the Alps. Katie has fond memories of paddling the river back to the campsite as well as finishing 8th and 7th in the two races.
Going further east, their next stop was very different. Bratislava in Slovakia has an artificial course situated on the Danube. Our paddlers expected to find a tough course and it didn’t disappoint. It took two days of training to familiarise themselves with the features. The course was incredibly hard on both competition days. In fact, so many competitors struggled with the features, that a missed gate did not automatically rule you out of qualifying. Katie felt proud to have simply competed at Brats and this will no doubt set her in good stead for competitions back in the UK.
Tom proved he could handle the course and qualified in his race to finish 10th. Harvey qualified both days which he was very proud of as he was competing against 18yr olds and under 23’s.
Harvey and Tom have proved themselves on some tough courses for C2 this year but nothing as hard as Bratislava which they conquered on the last day to finish 3rd.
Racing aside, all three children will cherish the experience of meeting fellow competitors from around the world. Katie will never forget befriending a Canadian paddler and borrowing her playboat to go surfing. For Harvey and Tom, it will be memories of kicking a football about with lads from Kazakhstan. Best of luck to them for the rest of the season.