Canoeing may have rich pickings for Team GB at London 2012 Olympics

For some sports, Olympic participation is an added bonus. For canoeing, it is the peak of performance – and Team GB's own efforts could peak in London too.

In Beijing the Brits delivered three medals in canoeing – Tim Brabants with bronze and GB's first ever gold, and David Florence chipping in with silver.

And in London the target is to at least match those figures on home water – be it in the sprinting at Eton Dorney or through the slalom rapids at Lea Valley.

Before 2008, GB's all-time canoeing medal tally was only six.

So from relative fallow ground, canoeing represents fertile medal hopes – and from a little patch of water just outside Norwich, there is a perfectly placed coach who can offer why.


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Norwich Canoe Club on Whitlingham Broad is where you will usually find Dyson Pendle – a development coach for Team GB, and a man well versed in the country's rapid revival.

'We've put a lot of effort in over the last 10 years to get to this standard,' he said. 'There is a new event – the 200m – and we have a coach that has been with us who has specialised in that event and done a lot of work and research into other sports to see how we can get an edge, and it has obviously paid off.'

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That man is Ukrainian technical coach Alex Nikonorov.

'I know him quite well actually; he has been here and done quite a few talks for us, for our own coaching methods and we use his knowledge quite a lot.

'In Beijing we had three medals in canoeing and kayaking, and we're looking to at least do that again.

'I suspect if we do only get three again, they will be a different colour – ie they will be better than we had before. That's what we're looking at.'

Team GB will have 15 competitors on the water in the canoe slalom and sprint competitions – a strong squad with high hopes of medal success.

Slovakia in slalom and a combination of Germany and Hungary on the straights will be the countries standing in GB's way.

But led by three-time Olympian, Sydney bronze medallist, 2007 world champion and now 37-year-old canoeing veteran Brabants, expect the hosts to be determined not to let anyone get in their way.

'You can never put a man like that down – once he's actually done the business and got a gold medal and two other Olympic medals, then you'd think he would be able to come up with the goods again,' said Pendle, whose own role inside the Great Britain set-up has given him a decent handle on who could excel in London.

'My activity is among the talented athletes at a lower level regionally and pushing them up to the performance coaches – a lot of the athletes come back to their clubs to train, and that's when I get to look after them.

'A lot of those guys were under-16 10 years ago, they came through the programme I was working on, so I do know them pretty well.'

Which means Pendle has his own one to watch.

'Ed McKeever was in Halifax in 2000. If you want to put a wager on put some money on him, because I think he would come up with the goods.

'The 200m race is one of those where if you blink you've lost it, and the guy keeps coming up with the goods every time. So he must have an edge on everybody else and as soon as he wants to get in front he can do it.

'At that time in Halifax when he came out to us in Canada, he was a really strong-headed guy. He will never say die; he's that kind of character.'

Dyson knows a bit of that closer to home as well.

Trowse's Tim Pendle is a big Team GB canoeing sprint hopeful for the next Olympics in 2016, who already has senior experience and is flying the flag for Norwich Canoe Club.

The 23-year-old also happens to be Dyson's son.

'He has been training with the guys that are going to compete in London, so that is the level he is,' said Dyson. 'He wouldn't be training with them if he wasn't good enough to do that.

'So that's about as close as he could get for 2012 – but he is among the top guys there for the 1,000m.'

An excellent 10th finish in the K-1 men's senior Marathon World Cup race in Copenhagen last month added to the hopes of future success for Pendle.

As for canoeing's own legacy, the London Olympics already seem to be delivering on that promise – both nationally and at the Pendles' Norwich club, where 180 members take to the water regularly.

'The past success helps, but there are a lot of dedicated people that work for nothing that put a lot of effort into the clubs, and they make canoeing successful here – I think that's where we are,' added Dyson.

'Canoeing is one of the few sports that has made their quota for increasing numbers within their sport ahead of the Olympics, and obviously more people means you are going to get better guys.

'If something is good, people will jump on the bandwagon and want to be a part of it.'

And that is certainly where canoeing is in Britain – with the prospect of this summer raising the bar once again.

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