Another development over the last couple of months that I find incredibly exciting (and canoeists who share my love of coffee will totally get it) is beginning a new partnership with Glen Lyon Coffee Roasters. Scotland is where I have lived longest in my life, and my slalom life began here. Which is why after years of stopping by for flat whites and gazing lovingly into the roasting room, I'm absolutely blown away that this roasters, not half a kilometre from where I first sat in a slalom boat, wanted to be a part of my journey too.
After the presidents cup came demonstration runs, at Krakow world cup. Due to an unprecedented set of issues with the U23 World Championships course in Ivrea, the World Cup was un-released to me two weeks prior to the race. Setbacks are an inevitable part of sport, and while this is the most beautiful, difficult sport in the world, for it to continue to exist we have to accept that on some levels it is a business. And at that moment, business said that I would miss out this time.
Demo runs were terrifying; during a race you can be absolutely isolated with yourself, completely focused on the job that is yours and yours alone. During demo runs, every single athlete watches you - and they DO care how you do! It was an amazing rush to be performing in front of about 99% of my idols, and I was proud of the way I handled it.
Augsburg was the first time I'd ever sat on a world cup start line. It's funny when you look back on moment like this; part of you really expects it to be a different level, a whole new experience that you weren't expecting.
Actually, while the event hosted in Augsburg was exceptional, the race I put down felt incredibly normal. I was absolutely jittering with fear on the start line, ready for feelings of being chased down the course by the monstrous 'WORLD CUP' feeling. But finally I felt as though I was being released on the water to do my favourite session - full runs. I put down a slow, clean run in the first round of qualifying, unfortunately too slow to put me through to the semi finals. In the second round of qualifying I was fast enough to make the semi finals, but picked up three two-second penalties at the bottom of the course. A little too tight, a little too fast-and-furious.
But I feel like the richest human alive coming away from this first experience. I got to spend a lot of time catching up with people I haven't seen more than once or twice over the last couple of years, and meeting new people who I hope I get the chance to hang out with a lot more in the future. We talk a lot about slalom being a big family. But nothing feels like family, quite as much as when you have to run to them for help. Fifteen minutes before my first qualifying run in Augsburg, my 500 gram weight fell out of my boat. This thing had been resined in for nearly six months, so I hadn't planned for it to release its hold quite so soon. As paddlers know, if our boats are under the 9kg weight limit, we get disqualified. Holding in the panic, I (calmly, steadily, CALMLY) walked to the GB tent. Kim was the only person there. I explained what had happened, and I have never seen a person jump into action as quickly; 'right, we're DOING this.' Kim was preparing for her own race run, but was happy to help me finally wedge the weight in under my seat.
I'm grateful for everything that has happened to me over the last few months. I hope I can continue the chain of support and love to athletes and people around me, because it's truly the most valuable, life changing part of this experience. I'll check in again soon, from Bratislava!