Twelve months ago Denmark’s Emma Jorgensen was spending more time at the top of a ladder than sitting in her kayak, hardy an outcome befitting an athlete who only months earlier had won an incredible silver medal at the Rio Olympic Games.

Her unusual preparation was reflected in her early season form, finishing closer to the back than the front in races which, at her best, she should have gone close to winning.

Except the ladder-climbing was not part of any new-wave canoe sprint training program. In Denmark, athletes are expected to get an education or learn a trade if they want financial support.

And Jorgensen, as you do, has earmarked a career as a house painter.

But despite the less-than-perfect preparation, and long days wondering where the ‘fun’ had gone, Jorgensen finished 2018 with World Championship silver and bronze medals, and some decent painting jobs in her portfolio.

It’s a struggle for many athletes to get motivated after the excitement of an Olympic Games – just ask Denmark’s Emma Jorgensen.

Jorgensen snatched silver as a 20-year-old in the women’s K1-500 in Rio, beaten only by Hungarian legend Danuta Kozak in the star-studded final, and consigning New Zealand star Lisa Carrington to bronze.

What a trifecta to find yourself wedged in. What an incredible launching pad for a young athlete, barely out of her teens, for the rest of your career.

And it will probably still turn out that way. But the start of 2017 was a tough slog for Jorgensen, and many of the reasons were beyond her control.

There’s no doubt in later life the focus on education will give Jorgensen an advantage over many other athletes whose entire focus is on their training and events.

 But at the start of last year it didn’t feel like a great advantage for the Dane. Away from the glare and media circus that comes with an Olympic Games, it can already be a pretty challenging environment for an athlete.

When you have to also throw in a pretty rigorous, and physically taxing, trade – well it’s no wonder motivation can sometimes be found wanting.

When Jorgensen lined up for her first race of the 2017 season, she felt nothing like the athlete who had caught the world’s attention in Rio less than one year earlier. And it didn’t feel like fun anymore.

“It took me four months and an extra six kilos to find out that I needed to start working if I want to stay were the fun is, and it was hard to get back,” Jorgensen said this week.

“So yeah the motivation was not on the high level at first. I hadn’t had so much training in the beginning of the season because of my education, that’s why I was not so happy about the world cup in Szeged, but it was what it was.”

It was a harsh wake-up call for Jorgensen, but her early 2017 results left her with a stark choice; write the year off, or double down, work harder and turn things around.

She chose the latter.

“I took it as a lesson and worked my ass of on the training camp before the worlds and that paid off. I’m very happy with the results in Racice,” she said.

Jorgensen took silver behind Carrington in the K1 200, and bronze behind Belarus surprise packet, Volha Khudzenka, and Carrington in the K1 500.

Both fields were Olympic quality, making Jorgensen’s results even more impressive given her slow start to the season.

For someone still so young, it’s all a learning experience. She’s confident she now knows how to get the balance right.

“For me its about myself and what can I do to be better than last year, what do I have to work with,” Jorgensen said.

“Of course I want to be the best, but I’m not thinking like that and I don’t even think that is on my mind at all.

“We have a big group of girls in Denmark who push hard to the limit, and that’s good for me. I don't have to worry.

“This year my focus is 100 per cent on kayak, and I’m going on every camp and to every competition. Last year I had more focus on my education.”

A more focussed, better prepared Emma Jorgensen. It sets the scene for what will be a fascinating 2018 sprint canoe year, one that could see Jorgensen climbing a different form of ladder altogether. 

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