I began kayaking when I was 11 years old. I joined Elmbridge Canoe Club with one of my best friends. I’m a real water baby and instantly fell in love with the sport. Kayaking has taught me so much, including through suffering injury.
In my first year of Sixth Form I had a swollen forearm. It turned into a full year of agonising back, shoulder, elbow and neck pain. If I sorted out one pain, another would start somewhere else. I wouldn’t wish suffering injury on anyone, but as a young athlete it is particularly hard.
The recovery process
I dreamt of being able to join in a club training session. I bought a road bike and channelled everything into cycling. After months of frustration, I had a physio, chiropractor and exercise plan that made sense and seemed to be working. By the time I left for uni I had battled my way back.
The injury process, combined with a crushing lack of confidence at school led to the worst two years of my life. I don’t think anyone besides my dad really knew how much I was suffering mentally. I left for uni determined to become a new person (although who doesn’t?). It didn’t quite work like that.
My whole mindset was still dominated by racing, and not only was I in a new location, training at a new kayak club, but my whole support system (my dad) was no longer there. I didn’t get any faster in 2015, but by the end of the year I was more confident.
Thanks to the very relaxed attitude of the Exeter paddlers, I remembered that my love for the sport didn’t start with racing but with being on the water. I became happier, I gained weight and looked healthier, and I got faster. In 2017 I dropped 4 handicap points, after three years of remaining the same speed,
I was the happiest and most confident I had ever been. Finally I was winning races and getting selected for low level internationals. I was training consistently twice a day, except on the weekends. In 2018 I didn’t make much progress on the international stage, but I did become U23 National Champion.
Learn from suffering injury
By the end of 2018 what mattered most to me was no longer the race result, but whether I was enjoying the training process. I am proud of the change in my mindset, and in how much my confidence has grown. I no longer recognise the mouse who left school in 2015.
This is an extremely brief overview of a decade of kayaking, but hopefully it gives some understanding of what has shaped my attitude to sport (and life in general) and my determination to achieve my goals.
If anyone is struggling with injury right now, there is an end I promise. And it will end with you once more finding yourself and regaining your confidence, whether you are back doing your sport or not. What matters most of all is your happiness.