It’s been in incredible 18 months for the GB Canoe Slalom team with a gold and silver at London 2012 as well as two gold medals in the 2013 Canoe Slalom World Championships.
At the World Championships in Prague, David Florence became the first British slalom canoeist to win both the C1 and C2 (alongside Richard Hounslow) world titles in the same year, adding to the silver he won with Hounslow in C-2 at London 2012.
The man responsible for coaching David and Richard is Mark Delaney – Technical Coach at GB Canoeing – part of UK Sport’s Elite Programme. Following the second residential, we caught up with Mark to ask him about the Elite Programme and what the last 18 months have been like.
You recently took a trip to McLaren as part of the Elite Programme. What was that like?
It was really interesting, the attention to detail they’ve got was impressive – they were all so disciplined. There seemed to be a real team feel about the whole factory.
What about cross-industry sharing – does hearing from Richard Wiseman, McLaren, RAPID UK and the former head of marginal gains at British Cycling help you see your role in a different light?
There are a few things you get from them; you get confirmation that the way you work is already at a high quality and you know quite a lot about what you have to do to be a good leader or a good coach but then there’s the odd snippet which comes out and you realise you’ve never thought of that before, or you think you need to look at that in more detail. Mixing with other sports and industries, there’s an opportunity there to grow your own skills and development.
How important is it for coaches across different sports to get together and share knowledge in environments such as this?
Yeah, I think it’s massive. On these [Elite Programme] residentials, you start to get a feel for how the other sports work. We’ve started putting things in progress like visiting each other and there are a few sports I’m specifically interested in going along to observe, see how these guys work with their athletes and programmes. It’s one of the biggest things in the programme – even just sitting there and chatting you learn quite a bit.
What do you think GB Canoeing can learn from other sports?
I’m interested in going along to see gymnastics - it’s a highly technical sport like the Canoe slalom and rowing have also got a lot of stuff that would interest us as well like the paddle design and boat construction. Even equestrian; how do you coach a horse to do things? It’s really interesting to go along because you’ve not only got horses to deal with but athletes as well. How do you coach a horse to trot properly? It’d be great to go along. Every sport has that appeal and you could spend a day with each one just watching and taking notes.
You’ve had a very successful 18 months or so with Richard and David winning silver at London 2012 then gold at the World Champs this year as well as David winning C1 gold. How much have you enjoyed this last year?
What David and Richard have done is incredible; it’s not really hit home yet just how incredible it is. I can’t think of a sport off the top of my head where someone’s done what David’s done – it’s an amazing achievement. It’s great for our sport, particularly at the start of an Olympiad and it gives us real good confidence going into the next three years. It’s great having that standard of athlete and we’ve got a high standard right through the squad; Fiona Penney won the Europeans this year and Joe Clarke made his first finals. We’re in the middle of athlete reviews and there’s a real buzz that things are going in the right direction and we can still raise that level of excellence.
The season’s been brilliant and I could never in my wildest dreams have imagined that we’d have a double world champion,the likelihood of that happening again is very slim and to be involved in that has been an incredible journey. I’ve been working with David for 12 years, so to have this come far is absolutely incredible.
Looking forward to Rio 2016, what are your hopes for the competition?
Of course we’re aiming for medals in Rio, but we just prepare the athletes as best we can, get them in the best shape for Rio and get them to race fearlessly on the day – that’s the goal and if they do that then they put us in a great position to win a medal.
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