There are days Nevin Harrison can’t stand the thought of going out and training.

Of course she’s not the only elite athlete in the world that doesn’t enjoy training. But Nevin Harrison’s dislike for churning through the water, clocking up kilometres all for the goal of being the best in the world, seems to run deeper than the waters she is paddling on.

In fairness, Harrison has not had an easy ride ever since she burst onto the world stage in 2019, becoming an unexpected C1 world champion, and then two years later notching her name into the record books as the first ever women’s canoe Olympic gold medalist.

She’s struggled with injury, most recently a back complaint which has kept her off the water for weeks on end. That can put a downer on even the most optimistic athlete.

But an even bigger struggle for the 21-year-old has been mental. She struggled with the post-Olympic blues which so many athletes succumb to.

Harrison is refreshingly frank about the challenges she is facing, which are not dissimilar to so many young athletes who see their friends not having to deal with the discipline and restrictions that go hand-in-hand with being an elite athlete.

“I feel like I like to put on a face at a lot of interviews and spew how much I love the sport, but a lot of days I get up and I don’t want to do it,” Harrison said.

A lot of days I get up and I don’t want to do it

“I’m 21, I’m still trying to figure out life, and I didn’t get a lot of time to have that freedom, so it’s tricky balancing high level athletics and being in my early twenties and wanting to do life. It’s hot and cold for me.

“If you talk to a lot of other people who have won gold at other Olympics, it’s really common to struggle with the mental aspect of things, trying to figure out what am I doing, is this what I want to keep doing, once I’ve achieved my goal, do I want to achieve it again or do I want to try other things?

“It’s been really tough mentally, but I’ve showed up for another year, so I did something right I guess.”

There are five Olympic quota places up for grabs in Duisburg. There is nothing complicated about the boxes Harrison needs to tick if she wants a ticket to Paris – she has to finish top five in the final.

If it doesn’t work out for her this week, there are opportunities at Continental championships to still get an Olympic quota. But of course, nobody really wants to wait for the last chance saloon to throw its doors open, just in case.

Harrison is well aware of her place in history. Not only will she forever be the first women’s C1 200 Olympic gold medalist, she also was USA’s first female canoe sprint Games champion. She was just a teenager at the time.

I’ve showed up for another year, so I did something right

She also is proud of being the reigning world champion. It’s a title she doesn’t really want to give up.

“It’s tough going into a world championships having not lost one for a couple of years,” she said.

“The goal here is to qualify for Paris. Obviously you always want to go for gold, but here I’m going to go for not hurting myself.

“This year has been full of a lot of injury for me. I had to pull out of the U23 worlds a week before I was meant to go, because of a back injury. It’s been a battle to get back on the water properly, I haven’t done a lot of time trials, or the typical preparation I normally would do.”

It’s been stressful, it’s been frustrating, but I’m glad just to be on the water

On Wednesday morning Harrison had her first run of the 2023 world championships, finishing fourth in her C1 200 heat. It’s enough to get her through to the next round, but…

“It was not my best, but I knew it was top six, and I didn’t want to waste energy, I just wanted to get a feel for it,” Harrison said.

“I’m definitely not 100 per cent, I’ve had some new stuff with my back, just in the last couple of days, just so I can do the races and finish up. It’s hard. Athletes deal with injuries popping up like this, but this is definitely my worst one.

“It’s been stressful, it’s been frustrating, but I’m glad just to be on the water.”

Canoe Sprint