Thanks to Edinburgh’s very own David Florence and retired duo Campbell Walsh and Tim Baillie, Scottish canoeists have picked up medals at the last four Olympic Games.
Florence has already vowed to carry on to Tokyo 2020, when he’ll be 38, in search of that elusive gold to add to his three silvers, while the recent emergence of Roslin youngster Bradley Forbes-Cryans has thrown up another serious tartan contender on the international stage.
The 21-year-old reached his first major final when he finished sixth in the K1 kayak final at the opening World Cup of the season in Ivrea, Italy in June, but that breakthrough result was totally overshadowed by his sensational and largely unexpected silver medal at last weekend’s World Cup Finals in Tacen, Slovenia. The 110 points gained also catapulted him all the way up to third place in the season-long World Cup standings, something he surely couldn’t have imagined when he was pictured as a 13-year-old Forth Canoe Club prospect in an Evening News article back in May 2008, and he followed that up last weekend by claiming the British Open in London.
Like many sportspeople, Forbes-Cryans has a near-photographic memory and can still recall his entire run in Tacen, including all 24 gates. “I was happy to get into the final, but I also knew I could improve on my semi-final run,” he explained. “I set up a plan with my coach and we focused on one section of the course in particular. I’d had plenty of final experience before as a junior, but canoe slalom is a real ‘on the day’ sport, and it was just one of those days when it all came together for me.
“I lost a little bit of time on the fourth gate when I got pulled into a ‘stopper’, but I’d say I executed 97 percent of my run according to our plan. When I crossed the line and then saw the time [70.17 seconds] I thought I had a really good chance of getting a medal. The next five racers failed to go any faster than me, and one of the French guys who was watching said to me: ‘You might even win here!’ The last one to go was the home favourite and Olympic silver medallist Peter Kauzer. There was a lot of expectation from the Slovenian fans, so it was huge for him to deliver [by just 0.28secs] under those circumstances. His top section wasn’t as strong as mine, but he executed the bottom section perfectly.
“I had an absolutely fantastic result in Italy in June, but I maybe tried to push too hard in the next few races after that. I relaxed a bit more in Tacen and it paid off for me.
“I was very, very lucky to be taken to Rio to watch the Olympics as part of the Great Britain Ambition Programme with three others. I train with Joe Clarke down in London, so to see him go to Rio and win gold there really drove me on and made me very motivated in my training. I thought ‘If he can do it, why not me?’ There’s a close rivalry between us and we try and learn off each other.
“Me and [Edinburgh University student] Eilidh Gibson have raced together all summer in the World Cups and we’re very, very close. Having big names like David Florence and Fiona Pennie in the British team is also a big help. It was awesome to see Fiona get a [bronze] medal in Tacen as well, and David is an idol of mine. He’s so, so professional, and hopefully his example can push me to my goal of going to the Tokyo Olympics. 2020 is still a long, long way away, but I’m already really excited and I’m willing to do anything I can to get there!”
Forbes-Cryans has further races planned before the season ends, including next month’s Scottish Championships in Glasgow. “I’m going home to see all my Scottish fans who follow me across all the social networks. I’m so grateful for their support,” he added.