Britain’s top Canoe Sprint athletes returned for their warm weather training camp in Brazil this week in time to celebrate the opening of their new elite training centre at Dorney Lake near Windsor.
London 2012 Olympic medallists Ed McKeever, Jonathan Schofield and Liam Heath, along with other squad members were there to welcome Helen Grant MP, Minister for Sport and Tourism as she performed the official opening.
Jon Schofield said: "I am massively impressed with the new centre - it's very high quality and makes you fell like you are being really well looked after.
"Anything that can have an impact on our race speed however small has been thought of.
"As a group we want for nothing - we have a world class lake to train on and world class facility to rest and recover.
"It is the little things like being able to dry your clothes as we are on the water three times a day and also having a place for power naps that can make such a difference.
"British Canoeing now has a real legacy not just for the current group but that will benefit future athletes for years to come."
Jon is just back from Rio and has returned more motivated than ever to improve on the bronze medal he won in London 2012.
He added: "The buzz around Rio is amazing it's going to be such a vibrant games. We will race overlooked by Christ the redeemer it's a stunning setting and we have all returned feeling really motivated.
"We want to go two places better than last time and win a gold medal. We have the ability and the support to do it."
The new facility will be known as the Tim Brabants Elite Training Centre, in recognition of Britain’s most successful Canoe Sprint athlete of all time and the sport’s first ever Olympic gold medallist in 2008. Tim, who retired from the sport after London 2012, is set to visit the centre later this spring on his return from working as a doctor in South Africa.
Prior to the London 2012 Olympic Games, British Canoeing’s main on-water training venue for the Podium & Podium Potential squads has been at Eton Dorney, which also served as the competition venue for the Games. Whilst water conditions were ideal for training, it lacked a suitable, quality indoor facility, with an old portacabin serving as a changing and meeting area, which fell well below the standard required to support elite athletes on a world class programme.
The new facility has been funded with £679,000 from Sport England, which has worked closely with elite sport experts from UK Sport and British Canoeing to make this a world class, purpose-built training venue for our elite athletes.
This will vastly improve the daily training environment for the paddlers who are preparing for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Tokyo 2020 and beyond.
The project has also benefited from innovative partnership working between British Canoeing, Sport England and UK Sport, along with Eton College (owners of the Dorney Lake site) and Serco (who manage the site), which will secure the centre’s long-term future, whilst ensuring access arrangements for the sport.
Minister for Sport, Helen Grant, said: “It's a great honour to have opened the Tim Brabants Elite Training Centre that will be home for our top canoeists as they prepare for the Rio 2016 Games. It's vital that we leave no-stone unturned to give our athletes the best chances of success in Brazil and this world-class facility will help them be on top of their game when they reach the start line. With investment from Sport England, working alongside UK Sport, this facility will also leave a great legacy for canoeing in this country."
Rod Carr, Chair of UK Sport, said: “To achieve world class performances, athletes and staff need access to world class facilities. This new training centre will help the sprint programme at British Canoeing achieve their potential at this critical time on the road to Rio.
“The fantastic facility will also be a jewel in the crown of British Canoeing and a venue that the next generation of canoe sprint athletes in the talent pathway will aspire to train at.
“The success of this project is testament to the strong working relationship between UK Sport, Sport England and British Canoeing.”
Olympic gold medallist, Ed McKeever, said: “The whole focus of our training is on making those improvements which will give us even the smallest of performance gains come the Olympic Games. This new training centre here at Dorney makes a significant improvement to the facilities we use on a daily basis and will enhance the quality of training we can do as well as the overall experience.”
John Anderson MBE, Performance Director of British Canoeing, added: “In line with our philosophy of continuous improvement, creating a high quality training environment at Dorney has been a priority for several years now.
“This excellent new facility retains close proximity to the English Institute of Sport support function at Bisham Abbey and still enables us to make use of the world class water provision at Dorney Lake. What we have created here will have an immediate positive impact on training and will assist us greatly to deliver our best performances in Rio.
“I would like to thank Sport England, UK Sport, Eton College and Serco for their commitment to helping us fund and deliver this new centre.”
The elite training centre includes:
- Male and female changing and showers
- Disability changing and showers
- Warm up area
- Athlete rest and refuelling / recovery area
- Coach feedback area
- Coach work area
- Kitchen facility
- Medical treatment room
- Meeting room
Charles Johnston, Sport England’s Property Director, said: “If our athletes are going to continue to be successful on the international stage, they need training facilities that meet their very specific need. That’s what we have at Dorney Lake now.
“This project has created a truly world class environment for our elite paddlers to thrive in. It comes as a result of a strong partnership between Sport England and UK Sport and a joint commitment to develop the network of elite training centres in England”.
2015 is a key season for Canoe Sprint and key competitions include British selection trials in April followed by a World Cup series and participation in the inaugural, European Games in Baku in June. There will be further trials in July to select the team for the World Championships in Milan in August, where athletes have the opportunity to qualify places for Rio 2016.