After winning the Olympic test event at Dorney Lake last month, Team GB kayaker Ed McKeever has now set his sights on winning gold in 2012 on home soil.
Bradford-on-Avon’s McKeever is one of GB’s best shots at victory in canoeing next year, having won his discipline at last year’s World Championships in Poland last year.
He believes that Olympic glory is the pinnacle for competitors in sports like canoeing.
He said: “I would love to stand on top of the podium at 2012. In a sport like canoeing, it just doesn’t get any better.”
McKeever ended the season on a high note with his victory at Dorney Lake last month, on the track he will be fighting on to be crowned Olympic champion next year.
However, this season has not met his own high expectations, with podium places at both the European and World Championships. He wanted gold.
The campaign had started brightly, with two victories in World Cup races.
He said: “After that, I had, by my standards quite a poor spell which knocked my confidence. I really was looking for more than bronze at the Euro’s.”
Ed acknowledges that a bronze in a continental competition is not a bad result, but insists if he is to win gold next year he needs to improve.
“I set a personal best in the semis at the World’s,” he said, before adding: “conditions changed for the final – maybe they suited Ptior Siemonowski more.”
McKeever relinquished his World title to Siemonowski whilst still achieving an impressive silver medal.
When asked if home advantage will play a part next year, Ed is adamant it will.
He said: “Home support will be good next year – people are interested in what we’re doing when we’re out training – they stop by the lake when they’re walking their dogs to talk to us.”
However, he expresses disappointment at small crowds at the test event.
“The test event was great in terms of results – it’s just disappointing there wasn’t much of a crowd to see it. I’m told the test was more for LOCOG and the staff to make sure they’re ready.”
With all Olympic tickets available for canoeing sold though, McKeever will be competing in front of enthusiasts and perhaps people trying canoeing for the first time.
He is positive about the impact of home games on less mainstream sports such as canoeing.
He said: “Having the Games in London will give sports like mine a real boost. Team GB are good prospects for medals at 2012 and we’re all going to work hard over the winter to achieve that.”
Let’s put Ed on the spot… other than himself, which other GB canoeists or kayakers could climb to the top spot on the podium?
He said: “There are several – the whole team could win medals. I’m not a betting man, but if I was, I’d go for Liam Heath and Jon Schofield in the K2 – they won at the Worlds and looked strong. Also, Rachel Cawthorn – she’s missed a few months but she has a real shot.”
Being the host nation does give the British competitors some advantage alongside – the canoe and kayak team practice on Dorney Lake – giving them the inside scoop on how the course runs and how different conditions affect it.
“It can be quite a fast circuit when the wind’s blowing,” he said, before adding: “We train on the Olympic course so I suppose our rivals will see us as having an advantage before the Games.”
Ed started canoeing recreationally after school – it was not long before he was noticed and moved through the ranks to national selection.
He said: “It meant a lot to be called up for Great Britain the first time, it was a great moment.”
Whilst canoeing often stands in the shadows of rowing when it comes to water sports in Team GB’s Olympic history, next year sees a realistic chance for the canoe and kayak squad to post their best ever medal haul.
Team GB currently lie a modest 29th in the medal table, with one gold medal and eight podium positions since canoeing debuted in 1936.
McKeever’s 2012 teammate Tim Brabants won the sole gold in 2008 in the K1 1000m. Ed will be looking to make the 200m distance’s debut next year a successful one for the home fans.