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A young C1W paving the way for the next generation in Wales

By Anya Wharton

Age 14

C1 div 1, bib 8


 

I started canoe slalom 3 years ago (May 2017) but have been paddling open boats and plastics with my family since I was a baby. When I started canoe slalom I had no idea it would take over my life, but I’m so glad it did!

Mostly I laugh off criticisms or people ‘joking’ about my paddling until it comes to trying a new move out of my comfort zone and suddenly I realise that if I mess up all of those people will have been right and that overrides my want to paddle

Being one of only four C1 women competing in North Wales comes with both positives and negatives. Until last year I also paddled C2 with one of my best friends and we would also train together individually even though she paddled K1. However, when she left the sport, I realised just how hard it was to train with mostly K1 men or paddlers at very different stages. Often I found that I would be in a group alone. This sounds great, 1:1 coaching is awesome, right? I would have agreed for the first few months but after a while it was a bit lonely and it is actually quite hard to train when you never have anyone to compare to or to learn from or bounce off. The other option available is training in a group with all of the K1 paddlers, they are mainly boys and are all older than me which also comes with pros and cons. Obviously it means I have people to train with but, especially on white water, often I can’t keep up with the session and end up not getting much out of it, or, conversely, the other paddlers get less out of it because they have to wait/help me. To be fair, these issues probably don’t directly affect my paddling ability too much but definitely affect my mindset. When I am in a group alone I feel as if everyone is watching and wondering why I am alone, or that they know I am not ‘good enough’ for their group. So many people have told me that this is not the case but somehow I always come back to feeling like the odd one out. I am so glad I picked C1 and I would never give it up because of any of these reasons but I feel like I would enjoy the sport (especially training) so much more, and progress faster, if everyone could understand what me and many other C1 women are experiencing, and perhaps be more supportive and understanding. Another thing I feel needs touching on is the attitude towards C1 women. C1 women as a category have a reputation as the slowest class or the ‘worst class’ which is understandable, this is due to basic physiology and we have half a paddle! But personally, I feel like many of the comments or assumptions made about C1 women can be hurtful and actually not even true and do nothing but undermine all that we have achieved in the sport.

Coaching for me is two things, it enables me to help other girls reach their potential in the sport and enables me to understand more about my own paddling.

I have had so many criticisms or people ‘joking’ about my paddling and a lot of it I will laugh off until it comes to trying a new move or doing something that is out of my comfort zone and suddenly I realise that if I mess up all of those people will have been right and that overrides my want to paddle. Normally these comments come from other paddlers joking around who probably don’t realise that what they say means anything, but some of my previous coaches have said things that have seriously made me consider whether I should stay in paddling. One of the people who got me through all of this is the best coach ever, Jonathan Davies, one of my biggest supporters and a huge role model who has always been so positive and reassuring. Jonathan’s leadership has inspired me on my coaching journey and I feel the experiences I have had help me to understand the Llanberis girls group that I now coach, especially the two amazing C1 women! Coaching for me is two things, it enables me to help other girls reach their potential in the sport and enables me to understand more about my own paddling. Coaching is still something very new to me but I really enjoy it and whenever I don’t know what to do all I need to do is think, ‘what would Jonathan do?’ and just follow my instinct and so far it is going well!



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