Schofield: Canoe craze is here to stay

First published in Sport

ETON Dorney has been the place to be at these Olympics if British medals are what you crave.

Eleven in total, more than any other arena at the Games, have been won by the home nation in front of a deafening chorus of cheers that has come to be known as The Dorney Roar.

But of those 11 successes it might just be the last two, won on Saturday morning on the final day of competing on the Lake, that echo for the longest as the canoe sprinters finally took centre stage.

Britain’s history of success in the Olympics goes hand in hand with rowing, the Sir Steve Redgraves and Sir Matt Pinsents of this world top the polls for our greatest ever Olympian for good reason.

But for a new generation that London 2012 is looking to inspire rowing’s baby brother, the canoe and kayak club, is rapidly gaining ground.

Four medals at London 2012, a gold and a silver in the slalom and then a gold and a bronze in the sprint put them behind British rowing’s mark of nine but still right at the top end of Team GB’s medal table.

And for Sawley paddler Jon Schofield, who won bronze alongside Liam Heath in the K2 200m final on Team GB’s second Super Saturday, the canoeing craze is here to stay.

“This isn’t such a high profile sport in this country but many people are passionate about it and the magnificent support at Dorney has shown that,” he said.

“We are lucky to have a fantastic waterway system in this country.

“So it’s a sport that as a nation we should do well in and I hope that it continues to grow after people watched us in our races and thought it looked cool.

“It’s very important that canoeing emerges from the shadow of rowing, as I said we are a water-based nation so we’ve got the same facilities that make rowing so successful and we need to join in and thrive off that.

“It can be a sport for people not suited to rowing, as you can see we canoeists are all about half the size of the GB rowing team!

“But we are perfectly suited to the sport we are competing in so it can definitely be a viable alternative.”

Tim Brabants made history in Beijing when he became the first British kayaker to claim gold at an Olympics in the K1 1000m event.

Four years later and Ed McKeever has joined him on that illustrious list with gold in the 200m and with Schofield and Heath still in the early stages of their career success looks unlikely to be transient.

“There was a bit of pressure because we have seen how well Team GB have done, especially here at Dorney, and we really wanted to join that list,” added Schofield.

“The fans were so fantastic and pushed us on and we are so grateful to them for everything they did that pushed us on.”

* Lloyds TSB, proud supporter of Team GB and proud partner of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Get closer to the Games at lloydstsb.com/london

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