Kimberley Woods excited to be racing again in the European Championships
Rugby's canoe star preparing for Tokyo Olympics
Kimberley Woods starts every race to win it - and the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer won’t be any different.
She will be paddling for Great Britain in the women’s K1 canoe slalom.
In the meantime she can’t wait to test her form in the European Championships in Ivrea next week - and add to her string of individual and team titles.
“It’s a bit strange to be back competing again, but I’m not getting my hopes up until I’m actually on the plane to Italy!
“So many plans have changed over the past year, but I’m so excited to get racing again,” said Kimberley, 25, speaking at Lee Valley last week.
“It’s 558 days since I last raced, October 26, 2019 - in the Olympic selection event.
“It’s been frustrating seeing other nations being able to race, but I know I have progressed in the last year.”
The team have had elite athlete exemption to continue training so this winter has been relatively normal, but in the first lockdown she kept up her fitness with garden gyms.
Last May they were allowed back onto the water so, apart from the lack of competition, Kimberley says her Olympic preparation hasn’t been affected too much. And after all the uncertainty of the pandemic, the extra year may even turn out to be an advantage.
“At the end of March last year we were questioning whether there would still be an Olympics and then, when it was postponed, if we have to do selections all over again.
“Once it was confirmed we could keep our spots then it was a case of chill out, be kind to my body and myself and be ready to get back out on white water - and I benefit from being a whole year stronger than I would have been. There will be nerves at my first race of the season, there always are, but I’m more excited than anything else.
“I don’t think it will take me long to get back into it. I thrive so much off racing, I’m hungry to get out there again.”
And her hopes for the season? “Ultimately that’s Olympic gold. I go into each race to try and win it and the Olympics is no differemt.
“In some ways it’s easier as there is only one person from each nation and I’m really confident about it - but not too confident. With two races before the Games I’ll know more what to expect from the rest of the field.
“We wouldn’t normally have a world championships in Olympic year, but they’re still going ahead, so there’s an opportunity to be European, Olympic and World champion in the same year, which would be incredible.”
Kimberley is racing both boats in the Europeans, being Olympic reserve in C1, hoping to perform well enough to regain her selection for the rest of the season.
“I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has joined me on this journey,” she added.
“ I’m always grateful to all my sponsors, including Nationwide Windows and Jaffa. Hopefully I will have the Rugby crowd behind me.”