Youth slalom at Lee Valley

by Ian Tokelove
Fiona Pennie, British slalom canoeist in action
Fiona Pennie, British slalom canoeist in action

Fiona Pennie, British slalom canoeist, at Lee Valley. Image courtesy of British Canoe Union

Canoe Slalom Olympic legacy project unveiled to target youth for Lee Valley

The first part of the 2012 London Olympic legacy project to increase the numbers of youngsters taking up Canoe Slalom gets under way this month when GB Canoeing begins offering training sessions for 9-16 year olds at Lee Valley White Water Centre.

Enthusiasm at the Hertfordshire-based centre has continued unabated since August when Team GB athletes won a gold and silver medal on the Canoe Slalom course. Winter-long canoeing coaching, teaching basic skills to beginners, all sold out immediately, whilst club canoeists from a broad radius are making a regular pilgrimage.

GB Canoeing’s Lee Valley Legacy Project is targeting a young audience, seeking paddlers aged nine to 16 years old, particularly from the local community, for a coaching programme from which it is hoped future champions will emerge.

“We’re looking for talented youngsters, who may already be involved in Slalom or a different branch of the sport and particularly those who have never paddled before” said Elaine Skilton, GB Canoeing’s Project Implementation Manager, who is leading the initiative with colleague Mike Chandler, in cooperation with Canoe England, the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and local canoe clubs.

Top level, affordable coaching at an Olympic venue is a golden opportunity for youngsters. Not only is Lee Valley arguably the world’s finest white water venue, equipped to coach the complete spectrum with every facility from flat water to an Olympic standard course, but all who use it will share the waters with the GB Olympic Canoe Slalom squad.

“This is the best opportunity we have ever had to promote the sport and by putting on these sessions we will be providing the chance for more children to take part in Canoe Slalom and hopefully develop some of those participants to become the Olympians of the future,” says Skilton, who will also be taking the sport into local schools as part of a Talent ID programme.

“We are looking to ensure we have a greater number of athletes progressing through the performance pathway, and this programme will help to ensure continued performance success for the GB Canoeing team.”

The coaching, initially running on weekday evenings and weekend mornings, will include competitive opportunities in the spring and summer. Being on the edge of London with unlimited potential to put paddles in the hands of thousands, the plan is to expand the coaching as demand grows.

An already amazing opportunity got even better for both club and elite paddlers when, at Christmas, Sport England awarded the BCU and GB Canoeing £1.6 million to begin developing a performance centre at Lee Valley for use between GB Canoeing and a community club.

“In my view Lee Valley is the best facility in the world and providing a dual usage facility for the performance end and the community club will be another huge asset,” said Andy Maddock, GB Canoeing’s Slalom Programme Manager, who was part of the team that designed the centre for the London Games.

“Our key vision on the back of the 2012 Games is to build a legacy and have at local level, people of all levels of the pathway competing in Canoe Slalom, with a view to ultimately having someone from the area winning an Olympic medal in 2024 and beyond.”

If you are aged nine to 16, interested in Canoe Slalom training and coaching, or are interested in coaching or volunteering in this exciting programme, please register your name, address, telephone number and club (if applicable) by emailing: and they will be in touch with you with further details soon.

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