Local canoeist aiming for gold in debut Olympics dream

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Staffordshire born slalom canoeist, Adam Burgess realised his Olympic dream last year and is aiming to repeat previous Team GB success in the event at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Burgess, 28, was put through the wringer in order to secure his spot for the originally planned 2020 Olympics, pushed back to 2021 due to COVID.

In order to make the Olympic team Burgess then had to top the performances of his two team-mates, Ryan Westley and David Florence over a three-race series.

This was no easy task as all three athletes had the capability of achieving their dream of going to the Olympics, with Florence a medallist at previous Olympics.

Although the first race was not part of Olympic selection, Burgess was off to a flying start at the June 2019 Senior European Championships in Pau, France, where he made the final and came fifth overall, the top British C1 boat.

In the first Olympic qualifying race in June, at the Lee Valley World Cup he achieved second place to take the silver medal and was the top British paddler which meant he gained maximum Olympic selection points in this race.

Burgess was delighted to be given the opportunity to represent Team GB at his first Olympic games.

He said: “For me, the really overwhelming thing was, I felt like the 12, 13 year old kid again, and that kid was dreaming that this could happen. I was up against two of the best paddlers in the world to get my spot, only one can go for each country and it just so happens, in Britain that we have three of us who are all winning medals at senior level, so it made my achievement even more valuable to me.”

Burgess did go through a stage of initial panic when the 2020 Games were postponed, thinking his hard work might have all been for nothing.

He said: “My initial thought was, wow, am I going to keep my place? Obviously it felt like the season we had and the rollercoaster we had to go through.

“I have earned this and I have spent the last 15 odd years of my life training for this and it happened and it could have all been taken away. I don’t know how I would have come to terms with that.”

Looking back on the unforgiving year of COVID, instead of letting it get to him, Adam took 2020 as a year to improve, sharpen up and prepare even more after news that he would be still keeping his spot.

He said: “I am grateful for the extra year. We were flying in 2019, I was so happy with the form I was in and to have it all end was tough to take. However, the result of a really well planned and thought out philosophy that we have at Great Britain Canoeing gave me positives to look at.

“I was thinking, I get to implement that philosophy for another year and undoubtedly, I am faster now than what I was this time last year.  

“I also have the advantage of knowing I am going to be at the Games, a lot of the guys I am racing don’t know they are going and won’t find out until May. I know what it’s like emotionally to earn that place, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions and takes time to settle. To have already gone through that I have one up on my opponents who will still be coming to terms with what they have achieved.”

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