The volunteers at boat control know their canoe sprint history, so when a three-time Olympian comes in to get his boat weighed they are not going to let the opportunity pass them by.

Hence why Rene Holten Poulsen, the Dane who won silver in the men’s K2 1000 at the 2008 Olympic Games, found himself posing for pics with the volunteers as he waited patiently for his kayak to be returned on Friday. He loves competing, and he loves giving back to the sport.

It’s one of the reasons why he went back on a decision to retire after missing selection for the Tokyo Games. That, and the fact he feels he has unfinished business.

Poulsen left no stone unturned in his bid to qualify for Tokyo, which would have been a fourth consecutive Olympics, but ultimately came up painfully short. He announced at the time he was going to retire, but the lure of Paris has kept him going.

“I love paddling, and I love to see how hard I can push myself. This is a great life, you know, you get to push yourself to the limits and you don’t get to do that too often in other areas of life,” he said.

“I’d like to go to Paris and see if I can get that individual podium. But just to qualify would be a great start. The race is not necessarily faster than it used to be, but a lot of guys are at the same level, so you can’t afford to have bad days.

“I feel good, I’ve done all the work I should be doing, and I’m trying to enjoy it because this will be my last one.”

Poulsen has been very open throughout his career about his struggles with mental health, especially after the disappointment of missing a medal at the Rio Olympics. His mood still fluctuates, but he has become much better at identifying what the issues are that he is dealing with.

On Friday he qualified for this weekend’s K1 1000 final, without doubt the strongest race on the Poznan world cup program. It will be a good test of where the 34-year-old is as he embarks on his fifth Olympic qualifying campaign.

“I’ve got to work on my confidence, but it’s coming, slowly,” he said after his heat.

“It’s not just Tokyo, for years its been going up and down and the results have been on and off. To build that confidence to believe in yourself, and to believe in the work you’ve been doing, it’s really important.

“I’ve started doing that really well this year. I was really good in Szeged two weeks ago. Now I’m starting to feel really tired because we did a lot of races in the last few weeks at home and in Hungary, but I’m also excited to go back to basic training and to prepare for the world championships.”

For an athlete who has invested so much, physically and mentally, into a demanding career that has taken him to the top, but also dragged him down, there is no doubt what qualifying for Paris would mean for him.

“It would mean everything for my career to finish in the city of cities, Paris. I would love that.”

Canoe Sprint