Twelve athletes have been fast-tracked in to the GB Canoeing World Class Programme after successfully coming through the Girls4Gold talent identification campaign.
The athletes are from eclectic sporting backgrounds and include a European karate champion, as well as a national level gymnast and an American Football player.
Together with UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport (EIS), GB Canoeing launched Girls4Gold: Canoeing to uncover powerful, female athletes to compete in the 200m and 500m canoe and kayak events and ultimately represent GB at the Olympic Games.
A six month selection process has seen the 12 whittled down from over 500 initial applicants and undergo three gruelling phases of testing and an intense six-week camp in Nottingham.
Senior Lead Performance Pathway Scientist with the Performance Pathways Team (UK Sport and EIS) Stewart Laing said: “We’re delighted with the outcome of this campaign, which has seen a really positive increase in the number of female athletes in sprint canoeing. We’re confident that we have got athletes here who will be on the trajectory for the Tokyo 2020 Games.
“We also found 17 younger females that have formed a ‘Sprint Futures’ programme, meaning we have a cohort of girls applying bottom up pressure to the G4G programme athletes, creating very healthy competition within the sport.”
Previous UK Sport talent searches have uncovered athletes such as Olympic champions Helen Glover and Lizzy Yarnold and Olympic bronze medallist Lutalo Muhammad.
Former national hockey player Angela Hannah transitioned into canoeing after being identified by an early GB Canoeing and UK Sport talent programme. Hannah made the K4 500m final at London 2012 and has won medals at World Cup level in the sport.
She said: "It's fantastic that Girls4Gold has found 12 talented, new athletes who will be joining the GB Canoeing programme and strengthening our female squad.
“Having come through a similar process myself, I know this will be a very exciting time for the girls as they begin their new lives as full-time athletes. There is a lot of hard work ahead of them and I wish them all the very best and look forward to working with them."
GB Canoeing UK Lead Talent and Transfer Coach Mark Hoile added: “Girls4Gold has been the biggest and most thorough process ever in GB Canoeing to identify the ideal canoe sprint athlete.
“I believe that the 12 athletes we have selected are as close as we can possibly get to the ones that have the potential to compete in an Olympic Games.”
The athletes have this week moved to Nottingham and are starting full-time training at the National Watersports Centre. They will be funded for an initial year as part of the UK Sport National Lottery funded World Class Programme.
The 12 athletes - and the sports they came from - who have been selected for the GB Canoeing World Class Programme:
- Emily Webb, 21 American Football
- Florence Morton, 23, Rowing
- Katie Reid, 19, Karate
- Nia Tomos, 24, Rugby Union
- Tanisha Clayton, 19, Gymnastics and Heptathlon
- Taylor Winyard, 22, Tetrathlon
- Afton Fitzhenry, 19, Sprint Kayaking
- Amy Turner, 20, Equestrian- Eventing/ Sprint Kayaking
- Bethan Zeidler, 22, Netball
- Chloe Bracewell, 23, Rowing and Swimming
- Emilia McAllister-Jepps, 25, Rowing
- Zoe Shimmin, 25, Hockey