Rugby’s canoe star again among best in world
Competing for Great Britain in the 2015 Canoe Slalom Senior World Championships, Rugby’s Kimberley Woods won team silver in the women’s K1 kayak event, securing the country’s place at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
The 20-year-old proved yet again she is more than a match for the best in the world, also just missing out on a medal in the C1 Canadian event at Lee Valley White Water centre. The former Rugby College student was the only British senior woman racing both classes and was unlucky not to come home with more medals.
In the most competitive event of the year, held over five days to include qualification, the top 15 nations could secure a place in the Olympics in Brazil in 2016.
The designers had presented the athletes with two different types of course. The qualification course was difficult because of the water but fairly straightforward for a Lee valley course, delivering exciting fast races.
The semi-final and final courses were more technically difficult making it much harder to get a good time with a critical move in the final stages.
On the Wednesday in the K1W, Kimberley hit one gate and was given a two-second penalty and came 26th, missing the first cut made at 20th place by 1.2 second. She bounced back on the second run coming first of the remaining 45 paddlers with a rare time over 0.5 seconds faster than the first run winning time. Although she hit one gate the time remained in the top three competitors, indicating she was in contention for a medal.
On Saturday in the semi-final Kimberley hit gate three, incurring a two-second penalty and decided just to go for it, hitting two more gates on the way down, but going exceeding quickly, resulting in a 5th place and a personal best. The other two British team members Lizzy Neave and Fi Penny also qualified in 7th and 8th place respectively.
In the final Kimberley had a stunning run and finished in second place, only to have been judged retrospectively by a video judge to have incurred a 50-second penalty for an incorrect negotiation of a gate and dropped down to 10th place. Head coach Paul Ratcliffe thought Kimberley had been judged particularly harshly.
Lizzy Neave came 7th and Fi Penny 9th. Importantly this result has secured a place in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. The K1W team won silver in the team event.
On the Thursday Kimberley was in exceptional form, winning the qualification on the first run and moving forward to the semi-finals on Sunday. Her team mates Eilidh Gibson and Mallory Franklin also qualified for the semi-finals in 4th and 9th place.
Kimberley had the fastest time but dropped to 3rd place due to incurring time penalties during the run. In the final Kimberley was on course to take a medal until the last difficult three-gate section, where she was slightly of line and spun the boat to get back losing nearly 10 seconds which resulted in a 4th place.
Eilidh Gibson and Mallory Franklin came 5th and 7th respectively, which was a good result for the British team.
Kimberley, who began her career at Rugby Canoe Club, is now looking forward to the Olympic selection event also at Lee Valley next month. As a student at Hertfordshire University she lives very close to the centre, which hosted the 2012 Olympics.