by Ed McKeever, ACCA student and Olympic hopeful
First of all, I'll get your attention and hopefully you'll be inclined to read on. As of last weekend, I'm the European Champion in the new Olympic discipline of K1 (kayak single) 200m.
I had been feeling really positive in the build up to the European Championships. Training had been going really well and I'd been feeling so strong and dynamic on the water. In time trials I had been recording personal bests, and force testing in the kayak showed I was generating more force per stroke than ever before. We also had a press conference in Bisham Abbey where the team for the Europeans were introduced to media people and I chatted with journalists from the Telegraph and Sky Sports.
Our 200m squad flew out to Trasona, Northern Spain for the European Championships on the Thursday, very late considering the Championships started on the Friday, but we didn't want to be hanging around whilst the 1,000m paddlers were using the regatta course. On the Saturday morning there was the 1,000m finals and we still had to sit and watch the other athletes (fortunately, there was some British interest with Rachel Cawthorn winning the K1 1,000m for women, Tim Brabants on his comeback trail and a men's K4 all in the finals). Then the afternoon and my time to race. There was the opportunity to make it straight to the final for the winner of each heat. Unfortunately, I had the German (Ronald Rauhe – the current World Champion) in my heat, which meant we were both looking to make a statement of intent in the heats and get a win over the other one.
In the race I had a poor start but was able to pull through the field and win the heat, and more importantly, I could put my feet up for the afternoon as the rest of the competitors had to go back out in their boats for a semi-final about an hour and a half later. I went back to the hotel that night and slept surprisingly well considering I had the European Championship final the next morning, and I felt as if I had never had a better chance of a medal.
The final: the start is a key part of the 200m race, and despite you not being able to win the race at the start you can certainly lose it. I had a solid start and was only slightly down on the German, 20m into the race, but after an intense acceleration phase I got my nose in front, maintained the momentum for the next 150m and held on over the last 30m to win the European Championships.
This was my first medal from a major championship and you can't get a better feeling than standing on top of the podium and listening to your national anthem. This was followed by my team mates and training partners Liam Heath and Jonny Schofield winning the K2 (kayak pairs) 200m event. After the presentations, we were all in demand both for Eurosport interviews and from enthusiastic Spanish spectators who wanted to have their photos taken with us.
All in all, this was a fantastic weekend of racing for the British kayak team, with four gold medals and one bronze medal, making sure that Britain finished third overall in the medal table. Now we have a slight break for a couple of days, returning home to Bradford for the weekend, visiting my local canoe club where I first took up the sport a dozen or so years ago and handing out prizes to aspiring youngsters.
Next we knuckle down to the hard graft in preparation for the World Championships in Poznan, Poland starting on the 19 August, where I would love to repeat this feat. I will update you with another blog from these championships, after which I will be looking forward to winter training for Olympic qualification in 2011, getting back to work and the December exam period.