Something Big is Happening!!

This weekend Waterside D will see another two records fall, both to the same crew, Keith Moule (Chelmsford) and Lizzi Broughton (Richmond) will break the mixed K2 record for both the 35 mile course and the combined overall time for a mixed double over the series by a considerable margin. Not only that but if you check all the records there will be very few crews ever that have come close to the times they have been setting over this series, and by that I mean all male crews not just mixed! There is also the very exciting prospect of them taking the series record outright if things go well on Sunday.. 


In a couple of weeks time they will be setting out on the big challenge, the Devizes to Westminster Race. Here something even more extraordinary could occur, not only would they be the first overall winning crew to contain a female but at the speeds they are going, if the conditions are favourable, could also be in with a chance of breaking the long standing record for this event.


Now nothing can ever be certain on any of these endurance events, there is always something that can go wrong, however in this instance it is coming together extremely well.


Lizzie, far from being a passenger and being carried by Keith is currently at the top of her game and improving year on year, last season she won a silver medal at the marathon World Championships finishing just a few seconds behind the winner and a significant margin ahead of the rest of the field, add to that a European Championship title in 2013 and you see the quality, she also has a history on DW that is hard to match. Last year she raced with Steve Baker and I had them down for an overall win (even if that was a heart over head decision) when I met them just outside Newbury all was clearly not well. Lizzie was ill and looked it. This however did not stop her finishing and finishing well. She is basically hard as f’ing nails!! Not the sort of person you would want hunting you down! I have watched her progress over the past few years and her rise is continuing steadily. On her first appearance at World level, I along with most others, would have put her selection down to the absence of the “big” girls who were then in the sprint system. Her first international medal seemed too good to be true and was partly attributed to a lack of competition at that event. Since then though she has pushed all doubt aside, I was fortunate enough to watch her race one of those “big” girls at an event in China and it was clear the gap between them was marginal, since then, still on the up I doubt whether anyone would, or could, now take her on with any confidence. Lizzie is World Class and of that there can no longer be any dispute. I believe that on this type of course over this distance there is actually no female in the world capable of matching her.


Keith is also a man on a mission. Always a talented and promising junior, from the outside he lost his way shortly after the set up of our professional system, maybe that was of his doing or maybe the system just did not suit him. Now he has returned, after a few years of specializing in the 200m , he is back to the longer events. Over the past couple of years he has forced his way into the national marathon Team. In many ways his rise has mirrored Lizzies, his first successes were looked at mainly in the light of weak competition but just as Lizzie has done he has now created a position for himself at the top of our team and those who always used to be assured of a simple crossover from the sprint system into a ‘weak’ marathon team can now no longer be confident of winning. 

Through his own personal motivation and for no other reason than his desire to do well in a sport he enjoys Keith has outperformed the funded athletes in the last 2 years, he has forced everyone else to take his quest seriously and is probably the most inspirational paddler on the circuit in men's kayak at the moment.


Not since Ben Brown and Anna Hemmings has our marathon team had athletes that others would fear to take on, now we have two at the same time.


Basically here are two people currently at the top of their game and still improving. What is so exciting to us, the canoeing family, is that they are showing a whole generation of paddlers just what is possible when your motivation is good and your commitment is total. They are showing what can be done, and what fun can be had when you are outside of the myopic sprint structure, outside of the holy grail of funding, “support” and free kit. These two athletes are better than most of the people on funding, only the few top end elite paddlers could take these two on with any confidence. Both have been overlooked for sprint selection despite performances that have clearly shown they are better than others selected within the cossetted structure. Keith even forced his way in last season despite being an outsider and that is unheard of!


Why are they not adopted by the system?…because they have chosen to exercise their own free will. They have chosen to enjoy their sport in the way they want to, on their own terms. To select events that inspire them to train and in which they see the possibility of success and enjoyment and ultimately personal satisisfaction. 


Keith has taken on the role of promoter for the marathon canoe team, together with Lizzie and a few other team memebers he is slowly opening up the eyes of other paddlers that there is life beyond lanes. His enthusiasm is admirable and infectious. So much so that, at his own club he has inspired a training group that now has 5 members competing in the GB team at the first event of the season.  He has shown those around him that taking a few quid and letting your life be ruled by others is maybe not the best way to spend your paddling career. There is fun and achievement out there way beyond trawling down a windy, wavy, weedy Nottingham course 5 times a year. There are events that allow you to achieve on your terms and to your ability. 


Keith and Lizzie are living their paddling careers as they choose and are showing us all what can be done. I for one would ask that everyone out there takes a good hard look and asks themselves if they are currently making the most of the opportunities available to them in our varied sport, or are you being led down a route, governed by the needs of others, into a cul-de-sac with little or no reward? 


So what are the chances of a new DW record after all these years? 1979 is a long time ago!! Well Keith and Lizzie are one of only a very few crews who have attempted this whilst being active at World Class level, other crews that have tried are the Wells brothers who came tantalizingly close to the record on a year with zero flow and Duncan Capps and Steve Baker who actually took the record (unofficially) in the year the race was cancelled, Ben Brown was also at the right level when we took the challenge a few years back (though I sadly, was not!). All these crews showed that the record is very possible given the right circumstances. At the speeds Keith and Lizzie are going there is even a little leeway if everything is not perfect. If they get close it will show that the record is there for the taking, and that will surely benefit the race and the sport in future. The only downside is that if two top class men took on the challenge they would have to be very confident they could match Lizzies performance over this distance to spare their blushes!


With DW only a couple of weeks away now I would urge everyone to sit up and take note, this could be an historic weekend for so many reasons. I wish them all the best and hope everything goes as well as it can. I remember well how much fun Ben and I had in our failed record attempt a few years back and I know how these two are feeling right now. My excitement for them is tinged with a little jealousy but I am trying to be grown up about it!





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