Pic by Balint Vekassy

Sitting in the stands at the Rio Olympics last year, Great Britain’s Kimberley Woods could feel the hair standing up on the back of her neck.

It was hard not to get caught up in the emotion of an Olympic Games. She’d been given the chance to see the operations of Team GB up close, and was lapping up every moment.

And in the back of her mind she was picturing herself on the Tokyo course in 2020, keeping her fingers crossed women’s C1 would be confirmed on the program.

Now it is official, and now Woods has yesterday added the first women’s C1 World Cup title for 2017 to her European Championship title, the goosebumps are coming regularly.

“It always does, and just talking about it now makes it do it again,” she said in Prague.

“To think it is now officially in the Olympic program, there’s a lot to work on, but I’m really hungry and really excited to get going.

“I was fortunate to go to Rio to have a watch, and it made me more hungry and I came away with a good end of the season last year.

“So to start a new Olympic cycle with two wins is really good. Having that motivation throughout the whole winter, and just wanting to get better.”

Woods was one of the few C1 paddlers to tame the tricky Prague course, with a who’s who of the sport picking up missed gate 50 second penalties in the semi-finals.

And then in the final the 21-year-old manage to return a clean sheet, which was enough to put her ahead of GB teammate, Mallory Franklin.

“I kept it calm, kept the boat running and glad that I came out with a clean run, which was very difficult on this course,” Woods said.

“2017 is going really well, winning Europeans and coming away with a win, I just hope I can keep the good form and move on to kayak as well and try to keep the consistency going.

Woods is also excited to be one of the early pioneers for women’s C1. It’s been a long battle for the discipline, with the argument often being there was not the depth of talent for the event to be showcased on the Olympic stage.

But since the announcement of the sport’s addition to the Olympic program, numbers have swelled dramatically. There were more than 50 entries in Prague, and that figure, and the standard of competition, will continue to grow.

“I know I have a lot to work on still, so I’ll just keep on chasing. I want to be one of the girls who moves the benchmarks for C1,” she said.

“I know that some of the girls in Britain, some of the younger girls, are really chasing us and trying to keep us on form.

“One of our second year juniors, she was fourth in the seniors and she’s away doing exams at the moment, she’s that young.

“Some of the girls here I’ve not even seen before or heard of before, seeing them make finals. It’s great to see so many women competing, 50 people sitting on the start line. It’s the most I’ve ever seen, so it’s really good.”

The ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup program continues in Augsburg, Germany, next weekend. 

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