Canoe Slalom

Oh hiiiiiiiiya. Apologies for being a rubbish blogger and going away for another four (five?) ruddy weeks. Thing is, I only bloody went and finished it, didn’t I? Like, on the 26th August, which is a while ago now. But I told you I was a terrible planner.

So yeah, I finished everything a month ago, in what will historically be known as “the week of excessive sports”. Excessive because I realised I had a week left until I passed my deadline of a year, and four sports left to complete. Ok it was 12 days, but “the just under two weeks of excessive sports” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. I’m not even sure the first one does, actually, but hey, it’s been over a month since I finished these sports and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t padding a bit.

Sport number 35 was the Canoe Slalom. I had planned to compete against my mum’s mate, Ann (who you will remember as the one who got me in the paper back in April), who is Swedish and a keen canoeist. It’s not in any way relevant that she’s Swedish, apart from that I don’t know many women of my mum’s age who are keen canoeists, so I’m attaching some cultural significance to this.

Ann loves canoeing, probably because she's Swedish

Ann loves canoeing, probably because she’s Swedish

There had even been some training for this. Such a keen canoeist, is Ann, that whilst I was cat-sitting for my mum (my mum’s cats, in case my grammar has confused the issue, here. To clarify, my mum isn’t a cat) earlier in the year, she took me out for a spin about the reservoir at Alton Water. Ann was pretty good, considerably better than me, as I recall. It’s always a bit embarrassing when you’ve been doing all the Olympic sports and you still lack the fundamental skills required to be better at sport than someone drawing their pension. Still, I’m sticking with my theory that Ann’s nationality is in some way advantageous.

Messing about on the river (reservoir)

Messing about on the river (reservoir)

When it got to the week of excessive sport, however, life got a bit bloody annoying and prohibited Ann from being able to compete, which really is a shame because I genuinely think she would have beaten me.

Amazingly, with this event, I get to have a crack at it at the actual Olympic venue, Lee Valley White Water Centre in Waltham Cross, where Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott bought home another flipping gold for Team GB, last summer. Just a week before I head off to Lee Valley White Water Centre, and indeed, after I have already parted with a significant amount of cash in exchange for my session, I’m sitting in the back of a cab with my mate Jamie and his wife, Sarah, a bit pissed, if I’m honest. I’m telling Sarah about what I’ve been up to and what I’ve got left to finish, when Sarah reminds Jamie that they actually know either the sister or brother (I forget, this was a while ago now) of Tim Baillie and could probably have arranged some sort of meeting. “Oh yeah,” Jamie ponders, “I forgot about that”.

Easy peasy. Probably.

Easy peasy. Probably.

I try not to dwell on this missed opportunity as I’m cycling to Waltham Cross from Dalston on the fateful Saturday afternoon. According to Google Maps, it’s only 11 miles or so, so it’ll only take about an hour, and I’ve left myself two, just to be on the safe side. But Google Maps doesn’t know:

a. I’ve actually only left myself an hour and a half, because I’m leaving 30 minutes later than I meant to;

b. Beyoncé’s chain has a nasty habit of coming off at inopportune moments;

c. I’m really scared of cycling in London;

d. Beyoncé’s wheel’s aren’t really made for a tow-path style environment;

e. I can’t read maps at the best of times; and

f. Just like it doesn’t believe in paying taxes, nor does Vodafone believe in robust network coverage across well-populated urban and suburban areas.

*shakes fist at sky*

So I’m half an hour late for my session by the time I turn up, and the Legacy Loop (the white water course, one step down from the actual Olympic Course, which you can also have a go on, if you have a bit more canoeing experience than once round a reservoir with my mum’s mate, Ann) is due to be turned off promptly at the point my lesson is due to finish. I can’t come back next week, because this is the week of excessive sport and next week I’m finishing EVERYTHING.

Very kindly, the team at Lee Valley allow me to claim the final 30 minutes of my lesson. So after I’ve squeezed into my wetsuit and overcome the Krypton Factor-esque challenge of navigating the locker system (which requires a code and a calm head, neither of which I deal in, particularly well), I’m jumping into a boat with instructor Simon, who’s going to take me out on the loop.

Wetsuits: categorically not my friends

Wetsuits: categorically not my friends

I’m ready to put my rudimentary paddling skills to use, but I don’t really have to do very much with Simon in the boat. I attempt, as instructed, to lean against the flow when we come up against some aggressive water, but I keep forgetting what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s also quite distracting that whenever we get involved in some of the aforementioned aggressive water, I’m at the front of the boat and a wall of water hits me in the face. So I spend twenty minutes or so, in the end, just giggling a lot, really, because it’s not dissimilar to being on the log flume at Pleasurewood Hills – East Anglia’s premiere theme park.

In an ideal world, you would commit a bit of time to this one, and try to get on the white water course on your own, but circumstances were not ideal by this point in time. I had a lovely twenty minutes or so on the water, really I did, and it’s really good fun, but I can’t say I feel I had a very “true” experience of what this sport is about, because someone else was doing all the work. This usually wouldn’t be a problem for me, but I felt it was a shame that my ludicrously self-imposed time constraints were actually starting to hinder my enjoyment of the different sports. Why didn’t I listen to Ian Botham’s wise, planning-related words? WHY??

So, on this occasion, despite being the only competitor, it seems fair to award the gold medal to my canoe spirit-guide, Ann, because if she’d been there, she would blatantly have been the one doing all the hard work.


Gold Silver Bronze Total
Jen 15 18 2 35
Gemma 3 3
Jade 2 1 3
Nick 2 2
Stef 2 2
Uncle Becky 1 2 3
Pete 1 1 2
Harriet 1 1 2
John D 1 1 2
Simon L 1 1 2
Adam 1 1
Aliki 1 1
Ann 1     1
Ashcombe Volleyball 1 1
Chloe Rogers 1 1
Colin 1 1
Dalston Dunkers 1 1
Daniel 1 1
GB Handball 1 1
Grant 1 1
John T 1 1
Kate Allenby 1 1
Naomi 1 1
Otter Water Polo 1 1
Pentathlon GB 1 1
Romford HC 1 1
Ruislip Eagles 1 1
Simon L’s Mum & Dad 1 1
Steve 1 1
Su 1 1
Vera 1 1
Simon M 2 2
Nic 1 1 2
Ali 1 1
Clare 1 1
James 1 1
My Mum 1 1
Nancy 1 1
Joss 1 1
Olly 1 1

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