The Paralympics and Olympic teams flew out of Gatwick airport on the 12 June 2013 heading for the Senior European Championships in Portugal. I got to meet some of the London 2012 team including the 200 meter Gold medallist Ed Mckeever who I watched win his Gold medal at London. Talking to Ed gave me some inspiration and an insight to the sport being new to it.
This was my first international sprint race representing Great Britain after only racing a few times at the National sprint regattas in Nottingham. The hotel was in a nice location opposite the beach, and transport was provided to the race venue. After the first day I went for a training session on the lake to practice the start buckets, as the lake has a cross wind being exposed and can make it tricky to negotiate the entry into the bucket. The weather started off overcast, but soon turned very hot with some light to strong winds.
My K1 men’s Arms only class 200 meter sprint race was on the first day of racing on Friday 14th at 10:25am. I did not know much or anything about my competitors apart from the sprint racer from Poland who came a close 2nd at the World championships last year, a few of the other racers were new and represented countries like Russia, Italy Spain Poland. I set off for my warm up at 9:50am and we had a dedicated warm up lane separate to the course. After my warm up I paddled over to my coach for a final chat and was then called to my start bucket in lane 4. I had good control in the bucket with the crosswind and held the boat steady. My start was delayed then as one of the Russian paddlers was in the wrong lane and did not seem to understand the English starter to move over lanes. This took over 2 minutes until one of the safety boats’s went over and moved him to the correct lane.
The buckets went down and the race was on, I had a good start out of the bucket and from the start the race was between GB and Poland who is ranked 2nd in the World. I matched him stroke for stroke, he started to get a small lead with about 70 meters to go so I tried to put more power in each stroke pulling as hard as I could and keeping the boat in the centre of the lane as you are not allowed to drift and sit on anyone wash. He was getting tired and I started to pull alongside again just as we both crossed the line. I was put in Silver position on the line as I turned to look at the results. It was a close race which made it more exciting at the end just a couple of more strokes and the result would be different. The Para GB team has never had any medal in my class before, so it was nice to be the first person from Great Britain to do this for my country. I felt very proud on the podium with all my team mates supporting me and the crowed was amazing.
The whole race venue and set up was amazing, just like I had seen when I watched Ed McKeever win the Gold in London over 200 meters. There was a TV camera that went across the lake giving a bird’s eye view which was amazing to see on the big screen and people were watching it live on Eurosport and live streaming online back home.
The next event is on 22/23 June at Nottingham which is our selection for the World Championships in Germany at the end of August. This result should also be taken into account for the selection process. I will hopefully get another chance to beat the Polish racer and take on the current World champion from Brazil Fernando Fernandes, who has won it numerous times.