World Class Action at British Sprint Olympic Selection Trials

In complete contrast to yesterday, the sun was shining and the water was flat calm at the National Water Sports Centre, Nottingham for Day 2 of the British Canoe Sprint Olympic selection trails. And in the final event of the session, 2012 Olympic bronze medallists, Liam Heath and Jon Schofield showed their true class, setting a new course record of 32.31 in the K2 200m to guarantee their nomination for a place on Team GB in Rio this summer.

Jon Schofield said: “It was a solid performance, nothing spectacular but to book our place hopefully at our second Olympic Games is pretty special. We will work on getting faster and faster and we are going to need to be, to be challenging for that gold medal, but we have our plans to do that. It will be our first foreign Olympic Games which will be interesting and we absolutely know what it is all about now so we can focus on our performance. It is an absolutely iconic venue and it will be a unique opportunity to race there.”

Earlier, Liam had shown he is also a force to be reckoned with in the single kayak event, taking the win and confining the Olympic Champion Ed McKeever into second place, with Jon Schofield in third. However, with Liam’s Olympic berth already secured in the K2, courtesy of having finished fifth in K2 200m at last year’s World Championships in Milan, Ed will still go to Duisburg next month to try and secure one of the two remaining Olympic quota places in the K1 200m.

A confident Liam Heath said: “This is one of the first races I have done this year, so it is just nice to get out and enjoy some good conditions following a bit of a taper in and see what you can do.

“It was a great race, I tied up towards the end, so there is a little bit more work to do but I am quite focused on the K2 which is my priority, but I am enjoying the K1 and seeing what I am capable of. I can’t go to second round qualification and Ed’s up for that. Doubling up is a consideration, but we will see how training is going and how I’m feeling in both boats and weigh up the options closer to the time. This year in Rio the K2 is finished before the K1starts so we will have to see.”

Although up against world-class opposition, Ed was disappointed that his winter’s training programme has not yet paid the dividends he was hoping for and said: “It wasn’t my best race today. I will go away and talk to my coach, Alex and see where we go from here and get ready for Duisburg.”

Also setting a new course record by some considerable margin, was Angela Hannah and Lani Belcher in the women’s K2 500m event. Having originally thought they had qualified the boat at last year’s World Championships on reallocated quota places, only to find that this wasn’t the case, the pair are even more determined than ever to go to Duisburg and claim the sole remaining spot in this event for European nations.

A relieved Lani Belcher said: “It is definitely great to go out there and get the win today and now we can purely focus on this K2. We have had to focus on our K1 as well as K2 for these trials and it has been really tough to be honest. We feel like a weight has been lifted now knowing we can compete for the K2 place in Duisburg.

“We will look to up the race pace. We find the more time we spend in the boat together the better it goes. We are in a better place now to last year and we know the little adjustments we each need to do to make the boat sit better and run faster.”

Angela who also finished second behind an in-form Jess Walker in the K1 200m said: “You can do both K1 200m and K2 500m at second round, so I would consider doing both if the selectors give me that option. I think for me the K1 200m is a really good primer and doesn’t take the same out of me as if I did the K1 500m.”

Jess, who also finished third in the hotly contested K1 500m yesterday, is already a seat holder in the women’s K4 500m boat and will focus on this event at the Duisburg World Cup and said:

“I am quite happy as I haven’t specifically trained for the K1 200m yet this season, I thought I would just do my 500m training and see how it goes. As well as the K4 I would like to double-up (in K1 200m) if it was possible, which will probably involve another race off later on. 

“I am really looking forward to getting back into the hard work and working on the back end of my K1 race and getting the K4 crew together for two to three sessions a week. We know that we are going well, but it is about putting it out there and showing that we deserve our place.”

In the canoe discipline it was Chris Calvert who took the win following a confident performance, in the hope of being rewarded with a place to contest second round Olympic qualification.

“It is a bitter of a weird one this year as we are a couple of months ahead of schedule, compared to what we normally are. We have had five good weeks of training camps and just starting to come into shape now, so I’m pleased.”

Delighted overall with the performances, John Anderson MBE, Performance Director reflected: “A massive well done to all the athletes who have acquitted themselves well. We have had some very competitive races and some world-class performances this week, so a massive well done to all the athletes.

“Second round qualification will be tough, but I am optimistic that we can go to Duisburg and compete well in a number of the events including the women’s K2 500m and K1 200m and in the men’s K1 1000m and K1 200m to try and qualify the maximum three additional Olympic quota places available to us, to give us the best possible team for Rio.”

Following the two days of selection trials the British Canoeing International Panel will confirm the team later this week to compete at the second round European Continental Olympic Qualification event in Duisburg 18-19 May. Athletes will also be selected to compete in the ICF World Cups 1 (Duisburg) and 2 (Racice) before the final team is nominated to the British Olympic Association for approval. It is anticipated that the Canoe Sprint athletes to represent Team GB at Rio 2016 will be announced on Tuesday 14 June 2016.

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