Clitheroe sprint canoeist has a golden target

Lancashire Telegraph: TARGET Jon Schofield TARGET Jon Schofield

CLITHEROE sprint canoeist Jon Schofield may have bagged his second consecutive European gold medal earlier this year but he believes this month’s World Championships will show where he will measure up at the London 2012 Olympics.

Schofield and K-2 200m partner Liam Heath romped to their second European title in Belgrade last month, recovering from a sluggish qualifying performance to storm to gold.

The pair have been in scintillating form ever since European victory in Spain last year, scooping two World Cup silver medals and with canoeing’s world governing body ditching the men’s 500m events in favour of the 200m for London 2012, Schofield and Heath are genuine Olympic gold medal contenders.

But absent from the competition in Belgrade were Arnaud Hybois and Sebastian Jouve, the French duo who won World Championships gold in Poland last year and will look to defend their title this time around in Hungary.

And as the British pair look to upgrade their 2010 bronze to gold, Schofield is only too aware that competing against the French next month will be the acid test.

“We could not have asked for a better season so far,” said 26-year-old Schofield.

“We’ve been on a number of podiums and so things have been going swimmingly – better than we could have expected really.

“The French pair decided against going to the European Championships which was a bit of a shame because we always want to test ourselves against the best.

“But at the end of the day we can only go out there and beat what’s in front of us. We know that we will meet them at the World Championships and we’ve been relishing that clash for a while now.

“We know that a top-six finish makes sure of a British boat for London 2012 and we’re confident that we can make it ours because we don’t really have a close domestic rival at the moment.”

While Olympic qualification appears all but guaranteed for the Brits, Schofield is refusing to take anything for granted just yet – ahead the 2008 Beijing Games, he and K-2 500m partner Ben Brown finished ninth at the 2007 World Championships and as a result just missed out on a trip to the Chinese capital.

But they have flourished since teaming up to focus on the splash-and-dash 200m discipline – and Schofield believes there could be a handful of Brits on the London 2012 podium.

“You’d most certainly say that Liam and I have benefitted from the change, we really enjoy the shorter event and it plays to our strengths,” added Schofield.

“And you look right across the board at the moment – the British women’s team are the strongest I’ve ever seen them and then you have Ed McKeever who is also benefitting from the change to 200m and obviously [Olympic champion] Tim Brabants.

“I think there’s a very good chance that this will be Great Britain’s most successful Games ever.” Lloyds TSB is a Proud Partner of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and Official Supporter of Team GB and ParalympicsGB.

Follow the future stars of Team GB and ParalympicsGB at: www.facebook.com/lloydstsblocalheroes

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