Often this flexibility means being able to commit to training hard by yourself for a little while. This is something that Scottish athletes can especially appreciate. We can flourish without support, progress without a guide, and still mould our careers in the shape we want them to be. I have had countless sessions alone, and I feel like I make a huge amount of progress. But I will be the first to tell you or anyone else in my sport, that training with other people is ALWAYS better. No matter how organised, structured or long your session is, nothing can beat having another athlete training next to you, or a coach standing there to be your guide.
So it was a pleasant surprise in Nottingham, when what started out as a planned week of hard, lonesome sessions, turned out to be the exact opposite - I actually couldn't have picked a better week to train. Not only were people Like Etienne Stott willing to let me join in on their training, but I had numerous sessions with Luuka Jones, kiwi senior team paddler too! It just goes to show how much of a community slalom can be, when the likes of me (top ten national competitor, top of my age group in Scotland) can have productive sessions with the likes of Luuka and Etienne (Olympians, World cup finalists, you get the jist of it).
Which kind of lead me to think about other sports. Isn't there a kind of shared camaraderie in the gym? When you lift on a platform, and kind of nod at the guy/girl on the next platform, and it feels like you're in this together? Running, and everyone has a spare moment to nod back, no matter how much they're hurting. That feeling that only athletes can share, when you dig so deep in a session that you see stars, and all you want to do is puke your guts up; but its not so bad, because your training partner is right there next to you, sharing your pain? I look at the sporting cultures in Downhill mountain biking and Windsurfing, and there is familiarity in every part of it. Slalom is hard, beautiful, terrifying, elating, dysfunctional, chaotic, organised and loved. But whenever I look at another athlete, or my coach, I know we share something, and neither one of us could ever put a finger on it. Maybe its just because everyone knows what everyone else has to give, how much ourselves we are willing to put into the sport. Or maybe its just because we all share a little piece of that competitive drive, to be part of the enormous, dysfunctional family of sport. No matter what your age, ability, ethnicity, location or funding. Everyone can be part of it.