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Let the fun begin!!

Its been a while since my last piece on the site but with the new season about to kick off frustrations have already begun to surface and I am feeling the need to get a few thoughts put out there to the canoeing public.
There are two big events on the horizon and they could not be further apart in their nature.

On the one hand we have the annual Devizes to Westminster race, attended by enthusiasts and amateurs all self funded and many raising additional monies for charities. The race is a celebration of the human ability to achieve personal greatness despite lacking any apparent talent. No-one knows these people (with a few notable exceptions) and for the most part they will remain anonymous even after achieving their own personal goals. For most the prize will be a handful of blisters, a sore backside and numb fingers for 6 months!


On the other hand we have a well publicised showdown at Nottingham for the first of three trials to decide who will gain the opportunity of racing for Team GB in the 1000m K1 at the upcoming Olympic Games. Sold as a glorious gladiatorial contest by the bloggers this event will be fought out by people with exceptional talent, healthily funded to take part in their chosen sport, with the potential of securing a place in British Olympic history and possibly a hefty financial gain from doing so.

At this stage the two prime contenders are our Olympic Champion, Tim Brabants, and his nemesis from last year, Paul Wycherley. Both see the place as theirs and this is the nature of an athlete.
Both have, and will continue to, give it their best shot and with luck the best man will win. Certainly both have arguments for and against but that is sport. But wait, lets stand back from the glamour of this build up for one second....what is it these two are actually fighting for?
Sadly, the reality is they are both pushing for selection to take the one free place that Team GB has been given by virtue of being the host nation.

If these two fall sick and indeed the next 10 or 20 ranked athletes below them also, we would still have this place, and who knows, you or I may even get the call-up if things got really desperate.
The fact is this place is a certainty, someone will take it and to you or I it really doesnt matter who (beyond personal preference) In short then we are all getting excited about a place that no-one has yet earned but will be given to us whatever happens.

Perhaps what we should be getting more animated about is the fact that after several years of running a very well funded professional team we are in this situation at all.

It seems that having already failed to even enter a K4 for the qualification round last year they are now not even interested in ensuring we have the best K2 for the final qualification in May.
At the moment this slot is occupied by Rutherford and Boyton who 2 years ago put up a very credible show at the Worlds with a 12th place but last year were not even considered worthy of the opportunity to race Brabants/Farrell for the K2 1000 spot.
Now they are the teams only real contender for the event.
Does this tell us that they are miraculously faster this year or does it tell us that our management dont have the strength or courage to do what they are paid to do and manage our athletes into the strongest team we can produce?

 If Rutherford/Boyton do get beaten it will be by chance rather than by design. Only three athletes were considered, by management last year, to be worthy of competing for qualification places, Brabants, Wycherley and Farrell, now ALL three are being allowed to fight each other for a K1 spot we have already been given while in the background they are letting two athletes who were not considered strong enough to even compete last year to try to qualify our only other outstanding places.

It seems management have allowed a contest of egos and arrogance to take precedence over the real job at hand which is to qualify places for Team GB at the Olympics.
Don't get me wrong, I have no issue with the athletes themselves choosing to do what they are doing, they are ambitious, confident guys with more talent than we will ever have.
No, my issue is with the people who have spent millions of pounds trying to build a team of 1000m athletes who then opt out of the chance to qualify a K4, are happy to let a crew race for the K2 place this year who they clearly thought were not good enough last year, yet don't even try to put together a plausible alternative, they allow their team to be training in 3 different continents at the same time during the Winter and despite being the paymasters do not think it is their duty to draw a line under an absurd situation in order to give the team its best chances of qualifying maximum numbers for 2012.

The inevitable result of this situation is that 2 out of the three guys who were considered fast enough to race at the Worlds last year will fail to make the team.
They will be sat at home watching having never even tried to form a K2 that might have qualified.
Meanwhile two guys who were written off by management last year will be racing for a K2 place that by their actions alone the management have shown they are not particularly interested in.

It seems they are resigned to seeing not only our K4 fall by the wayside but also our K2. The probable outcome of this is that out of a possible seven man 1000m team we will be fielding one athlete, the exact same number we would have been fielding if there had been no funding, no management, no professional coaches and the athletes had all stayed at their clubs.

There is no glamour in this contest for the 1000m K1, only tragedy. It is the end of a long road of wasted money, wasted talent and bad management.

So what will I be looking forward to the most in the next few weeks?
A casual day out watching several hundred motivated amateurs take on the 125 miles to Westminster.
For the most part talent free, but with the strength of character to finish a race I failed to finish last year.
I will stand with other motivated amateur onlookers who are involved with the sport because they love it, for its own sake, and not for what they can get out of it. People who will still be here next year and the year after doing what they love doing despite the anonymity.

I can't pretend though that I wont be watching closely at Nottingham for the Mens 1000m race, if only with the desire to see Nottingham throw up its best and have a complete outsider win from the shelter of Lane 1.

Bring on the confusion and the backtracking!! (Apologies to all the athletes)

As ever with all of my articles, any responses or counter articles will be posted on the site. We look forward to airing all genuine opinion on here provided it is rational and based on fact.

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