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Franklin not fazed by lack of competition as she looks ahead to an Olympic year

Windsor’s Mallory Franklin has said she’s relaxed about her lack of recent competition as she looks ahead to paddling for gold at next summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Franklin has been selected to race for Team GB in the canoe slalom (C1) event and believes she can challenge for a medal in Tokyo despite her recent time out of the water due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 26-year-old is one of Great Britain’s most successful female canoeists having won eight individual and three team medals in one season. She won her first European title in the C1 class in 2019 and took silver in the K1 category. She’s also backed this up with several podium places at World Cup events and, despite not being at her best in the most recent British Championships, she’ll have a medal in her sights when she takes to the water in Tokyo next summer.

“I hadn’t got into the mindset of thinking the games was coming,” said the Windsor & District Canoe Club athlete. “I was still in winter training when the situation arose, and I was thinking ‘they’re probably going to postpone it’. So, I kind of saw it coming and it meant I could relax and just focus on being mentally good in this period where we’ve lost all connection and the trips abroad that we normally do.

“I am also grateful in lots of ways, for being able to do a full periodisation for a year, rather than the six months you normally get once you’ve finished your season. When lockdown was first spoken about British Canoeing dispersed the gym kit across the main athletes, so I was able to do my gym training. When we were officially locked down there was no access to any water, not even the main training base at Lee Valley. To lose that was probably the hardest thing. I’ve been doing this since I was five, it’s how I get happy and how I deal with things and we didn’t have water for nearly two months. I considered buying a pool, like a big swimming pool for a canoe just so I could feel the water, but we got back onto flat water first for a few weeks and then the training centre opened. It was a little funny for a while with all the guidance in place but at least we’re back on the water and things are starting to settle.”

Franklin has been back training on the water at Lee Valley for a few months now, but British Canoeing haven’t been sending their athletes to the international events that have been taking place post lockdown. The European Championships took place at the end of September, but it went ahead without athletes from Team GB, Germany, Slovakia and Russia. Franklin admits it was strange for her to watch the event on television, but she claims she doesn’t thrive off competitive events and believes she and her teammates will get plenty of opportunity to fine tune their racing instincts before the Olympics rolls around.

“A month ago, British Canoeing announced that even if races were to take place, they weren’t going to send any of their athletes,” she said. “We lost access to any races that might have happened domestically or internationally. Because of the way the slalom works it’s hard to maintain social distancing because more than 100 people will be in the general vicinity.

“Some rivals will be (racing). They scheduled the Europeans for the weekend before last and they classified it as a proper championship. But we weren’t there, the Germans weren’t there, the Slovaks weren’t there, and the Russians weren’t there. It was weird watching it from the side-line and you miss the feeling of being on the start line. But I’m not someone who massively thrives off lots of competition.

“I’m not in tears because I haven’t been able to race, but I’m very much aware that some of the people I’ll be competing against next year at the games have had access to races. But I’m more about personal growth and development. I’ll stay focused and try to improve each day and then I will turn up at the races next year as ready as I can be. We’ll have a couple of domestic races before the international season starts and it will be a priority to get that feeling of needing to perform when the pressure is on.”

She added: “The history would tell you I was a medal hope and I’d be pretty confident that I’ve only got better. Where I sit in our world ranking would imply that I am a medal hope and I’m going there with the hope of winning. but the slalom is one of those sports where everything can change in a small period. I’ll just focus on reaching that event being as happy as I can be with how I got there and feeling good in that moment.”

British Canoeing is set to hold three two-week training camps on the water in Tokyo in April, May and June next year, prior to the holding camp for the games in July.

“We’ll have a reasonable amount of time up there and the whole of that time will be spent trying to get better at the course and trying to understand the water better. The set-up of the course and the configuration of the water will be set, but the gates will change, and we’ll only find that out the night before racing. Then we’ll have one course for the heats and a separate one for the semis and finals. You want to get to know the water as much as you can, so that whatever they put on it you feel confident you can compete.”

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