One thing I love about my sport, is the variety – no session is ever the same, each whitewater course is different, and every race course is unique. For this reason, training on different courses, and with different people is important to work on adaptability and keep developing technique. This year has been like no other and we were told early on in Australia that we would not be able to travel overseas. I was quite upset by this news as I’ve been travelling to Europe for training and competition for the last 10 years and this was part of my preparation for each season, and something I was banking on to prepare for the new Olympic date as well. I think I would stagnate without the stimulation of change. Luckily, there were ways of getting overseas through travel exemption applications and I managed to get over to Europe in July for a good block of training.
It was quite strange to be travelling through an empty airport, and in an empty plane it was so quiet… so eery. I had a facemask, a full face shield, and a few hand sanitisers and wipes added to my zip lock liquids bag, despite the protection I definitely felt a little anxious and made sure to be really careful about what I touched, what I ate, where I walked and sat.
Arriving in the Czech Republic, it felt like Covid didn’t exist there. Not many people wore masks and I was looked at really strangely for wearing one! Prague is one of the best places to train and I love that course. It’s no wonder the Czechs have such a strong history and depth in canoe slalom. I spent 3 weeks in Prague training with French, Czech, Spanish, Swiss, and German athletes, testing out my new boats and paddles I received and exchanging Covid lockdown stories with friends also training in Prague.
Pic by Sam Roucas
From there I travelled to France where I based myself in the southwest in Pau, training on the Pau Pyrenees course, with a quick trip over the Pyrenees to paddle in La Seu as well. France was definitely more affected by Covid and training and racing looked different. Temperature check, no changeroom use, social distancing, no spectators and limited staff and club members at the races, and a face mask to be worn when looking at the course and any time we were out of the boat. The new normal…
It was a really worthwhile trip for me and I am so happy I took the risk to go overseas, I was extremely careful and it was a lot less social than previous years with none of the usual gatherings, social events or group activities scattered between sessions and races. The goal was to get a good block of training in, train on different courses, test out equipment, train with different training partners and have some startline experience.
Unfortunately, I didn’t end up competing in the World Cup events scheduled late October and November because the Covid situation made travelling across borders uncertain and the case numbers were rising exponentially and my team and I made the decision to leave earlier than planned. The day I left, France recorded 50,000 new cases and were heading into Lockdown. It felt like the right time to come home to do my quarantine!