EVESHAM Paddle Monsters Canoe and Kayak Club members have enjoyed a fantastic 2017 season in the sport of canoe slalom, with paddlers taking the opportunity to train, race and paddle for fun in the UK and throughout Europe.
In addition to regular Canoe England squad training for the juniors at Nottingham and on the Olympic course in London, members of the club enjoyed paddling as far afield as Eastern Europe, as well as competing throughout the UK and, of course, paddling locally at home on the River Avon around Evesham.
The aim of this sport is to test the athlete’s skills on moving water by negotiating a sequence of about 20 gates set along a section of white water rapids. The competitor is timed and receives penalties of two seconds for touching a gate and 50 seconds for missing a gate. Skill and fitness are both required to complete a course ‘fast and clean’.
Eighteen-year-old Mike Dickinson has had an incredible last year as a junior paddler. After an intensive winters training in the England National Talent Squad, he then stepped up to deliver at the Team GB selection races at Easter, held on the London 2012 Olympic course at Lee Valley.
He secured not only a place in the GB junior team, but also a spot as a reserve in the U23 GB team with a blistering qualification run.
Mike was selected to represent Great Britain at the Junior World Championships in Bratislava, Slovakia, and also the European Championships in Germany, whilst Mike also finished the first half of the season ranked sixth overall in the UK and top junior.
With invaluable support and backing from Karndean Flooring, training camps to Bratislava followed. With the World Championships held there in July, specific preparation was essential.
July came and brought the start of a six-week tour of Europe and the World Championships got under way in fine style.
Making the most of his preferred big water environment, Mike controlled the pace and qualified for the semi-finals. A small mistake in the semis, with a penalty for not quite getting his whole head in gate 15, meant the end of his bid for the medals.
However, with a raw run time fast enough for the top ten in the world, this was a great result at his first World Championships.
Moving on to the European Junior Cup races, Mike made the final three out of four attempts at races in Poland and the Czech Republic – all good progress towards the summer finale at the European Junior Championships in Hagen-Hohenlimburg, Germany.
The course featured tight and fiddly gates on relatively flat water, not Mike’s preferred environment of big volume white water. Qualification was completed in fine style, as good pace and precision on the physical course saw him progress through to the semi-finals.
Using effective planning to manage the risk in the key technical parts of the course, Mike was in good shape pushing into the last few gates when a tight turn into a downstream stagger sequence resulted in him catching his stern on a submerged rock.
This caused the boat to briefly rotate off line and resulted in Mike touching the next gate with his bow, receiving a two-second time penalty and placing him 19th overall in Europe.
Again Mike was fast enough for the top ten, but paid dearly for the slightest of touches.
Mike’s achievements have earned him a place in this year’s England Performance Squad. This is the national U23 squad and only a few people make it this far, with only one more squad above this – the Olympic one.
Thanks must go to Karndean Flooring, the John Martin’s Charity and Prince Henry’s High School for their support and encouragement this season.
Fifteen-year-old Edward Dickinson has also enjoyed great success this year. His performances over the summer in Division One single canoe, along with a well earned promotion to the Premier Division in kayak, have earned him a place in the England super regional squad for 2018.
Now having regular access to training on the Olympic course at Lee Valley, Edward has also enjoyed his first summer competing in Europe.
Edward competed in the European Junior Cup races in the U16 category and, although he was under 15 at the time, managed to make the final in five out of the six races he entered In Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic.
The race at Ceske in the Czech Republic saw Edward deliver a super smooth clean run to finish in fifth place in his age category and with a time that beat a large number of the junior 18 competitors, including Brother Mike!
As the youth of Evesham lead the way forwards, John Dickinson has been representing the opposite end of the age range, moving into the twilight of his paddling career.
Competing this year in kayak in the Premier Division, John also represented England in the Masters category at the Pan Celtic Cup Home International series, securing a win in the English round in Yorkshire.
In addition to lending full coaching support during the summer tour, John also provided official demonstration runs at the Junior Cup races as well as competing in the Bratislava Open in Slovakia.
Another highlight of the season was at the British Open, held on the 2012 Olympic course in London. With Edward eligible to compete this year, all three Dickinson men lined up together on the start line of the iconic facility where Team GB won gold and silver medals in 2012.
Matt Stephens has also enjoyed great progress this year in Division One kayak. Armed with much-needed equipment upgrades, Matt has produced solid performances throughout the season and produced his best results at the Nottingham races, this year achieving his highest ever national ranking in the sport.
In the Division Two ladies’ kayak category, Karen Dickinson has fought off the waves of upcoming junior paddlers to finish at the top of the division. Training throughout the UK and in Europe this summer, Karen has improved her confidence and technique on big water and is looking to consolidate her performance through this winter.
Looking forward to the 2018 campaign, Mike and Edward will be contesting the GB selection races, looking to make the U23 and J18 teams respectively – a tall order at only 18 and 15 years of age.
John and Mike had previously been the only father and son to compete together at the same time in the Premier Division and now they are joined by Edward for the 2018 season – a record likely to stand for a long time to come!
Matt will be looking to improve his ranking to the top of Division One and Karen will be looking for promotion to Division One.
Anyone interested in offering sponsorship to support Mike and Edward, or trying slalom canoeing and kayaking, can contact the club by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.