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  • Writer's pictureDean Macken

GB Canoe Slalom Tour - Slovak & Czech - 1999

Thursday, 22nd July 1999

GB Juniors Canoe Slalom Team Summer Tour & My First International Race Liptovsky, Slovakia & Roudnice, Prague July 1999 Written By Anneka Brewster, Aged 14 Monday 26th July - Travelling We left Holme Pierrepont at 6.15am and caught the ferry at 12.30pm, there was a swell on the Channel, and I kept swaying all over the ship, it was good fun. It was also my first time abroad. The journey to Slovakia went well, we were able to roam the length of the coach and enjoyed CDs that we took with us, we only got bored in the last hour. The time was spent getting to know each other better and eased some of the worries I had about the trip.

Tuesday We slept overnight on the coach and arrived at the Lodenica on Tuesday afternoon, tired but excited. The hotel had simple facilities, a dining room, toilets and showers. The rooms had three beds, a sink, wardrobe and three shelves; a balcony was shared with another room containing three other girls from our team. It was a good place to dry kit. The lads were jealous because they had no balconies and kept losing kit off their windowsills into the street below. I was still nervous about the course that we would paddle over the next six days, until after we had viewed it that evening. It looked very fast with some sharp eddies - I was eager to paddle it.

Wednesday - Our first day of paddling After a quick warm up on the bank and exercises on the water came the bad news. We were going to practice the flat-water gates first, to let our coach and chaperone, Liz Vowels, know how good we really were, this was bad news for me as I prefer moving water that I can use to my advantage. We practiced our three stroke breakouts, which Liz helped me with. She told me later in the week that I was a nightmare but tons better on moving water. Liz set us a course on the real water and said she was impressed with my breakouts, which I had also been pleased with. There was also quite a hard move, a stagger on a stopper, on which I rolled twice and won the ‘Fish of the day’ prize – a disposable camera – hooray! At lunchtime we wandered into town to the pizza house, I worried that I would end up with the wrong meal because the waiter looked confused as we tried to order in German.

Thursday – Selection race The organisers for the International race in Prague next week (The Czech Cup), had to take the best of us so we needed a selection race amongst the 6 girls and 18 lads in the team; this would also prepare us for the main event. We only had 15 minutes to look at the course and no practice, the runs would be aggregate, so everyone was nervous as we were so unfamiliar with the course. I did two additional gates, Faye did one extra and so did Zach. On my second run it all improved, I came 4th out of 6 in the K1 Ladies and won a badge and entry to the race.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday Two 90-minute sessions a day, walks into town for pizza and a look around (it’s amazing what you can buy here with no ID or proof of age). We spend the evenings outside before we go to bed.

Monday – Travel to the beautiful city of Prague What they don’t tell you is on the outskirts of Prague, it’s well… not so beautiful. All of us noticed a difference in temperature from Liptovsky – definitely hotter, and they speak English – result! After a long but mad journey (mostly consisting of Dr Dre and Tetris), we arrived at our 20-storey accommodation, Hotel Sol. We got off the coach and went straight up to the 8th floor where our room was. The hotel wasn’t bad, and it had a balcony to dry kit, a café next door and a breakfast room. We didn’t have time to look at the course.

Tuesday – first session at Troja Prague Our first session was getting to know the water, we were late for our slot so we only got half an hour. The course was fast like Liptovsky with its sharp eddies, but very mucky in comparison to Lipto’s crystal clear water. For lunch we went to the café next door. For the second session of the day we did full runs which meant we did a set course for the whole time. I did one run of the whole course then did Liz’s section three times.

Wednesday Two good hour-long sessions and bought some new kayaking kit from the on-site shop (Hiko). Wayne and Matt have bought a blow-up shark that freefalls from the top floor of our hotel – he’s now our team mascot. We’ve all got bee-bee guns so between sessions and in the evenings we run around and shoot each other!

Thursday – Excursion to the city A very early start, ready to get wet by 7am for our training first and only session today. No breakfast so we had this when we got back to the hotel. This day was very exciting as we were going into Prague, SHOPPING! The city was absolutely gorgeous, there was an astronomical clock that did something every hour, we didn’t get to watch it, but I got a postcard of it anyway and some souvenirs. The people there were totally mad, with their mad fashions and crazy hair, however they were also quite poor, we even had a little girl come up to us to ask for money.

Friday – rest day We just got up late and tidied our rooms.

Saturday – Semi finals The scary day was here. The Ladies runs were in the afternoon and the Men in the morning, so we had time to watch more people run the course. When our lads had their turn’s we all ran down with them shouting “up, up, up” in encouragement and then carried their boats back for them. The atmosphere was fantastic. Then it was our turn. I wasn’t that nervous when it came to my run although I did muck up a bit on Gate 2. SEE SKETCH. I got caught up on Gate 20 by another paddler but managed to get out of their way quickly. SEE SKETCH. I felt quite good as I had got all the gates on this very fast course. When I looked at the results I had done well – 2nd GB lady and 14th out of all 23 International Ladies (up to 19-years old). On my second run the lady who caught me up at Gate 20 last time, caught me at Gate 11 this time. As Gates 11 & 12 were hard to do forwards and me risk missing one, I chose to do a peel-out which is to break out after 11, come around 11 and back into the flow for 12. Somehow, I shot past 11 so had to go back for it, then on to 12. By this time the other lady was in the stopper, I thought I would hit her but didn’t and it worked out quite well. SEE SKETCH I checked my results again, but I had dropped down a few places as everyone else had done a better second run. I ended up 18th which was still good because I was competing against 19-year old ladies, some of which looked like big beefy men! Only the first 10 got through to the Final so I didn’t get to compete on Sunday, but Wayne and Ryan did really well and so we all cheered even harder for them on the Sunday.

Monday – Home time Travelling home on the bus was good and the crossing ok. I was sad to say good-bye to my team mates back at HPP as I had got really close to them over the tour - I enjoyed it so much. ---------------------------- The 2 weeks I had in Slovakia and Czech were brilliant. If I have the chance to go on a GB trip again I definitely will. The water was challenging, food interesting, weather hot, Prague gorgeous, people friendly and overall a fantastic experience, particularly the race.

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