National success has added extra motivation for Young Norfolk Sports Academy kayak racer Tim Dowden
- Credit: Submitted
Among the latest athletes to join the Young Norfolk Sports Academy is kayak racer Tim Dowden. The 15-year-old Langley School pupil enjoyed national success at the end of last year and is setting his sights on further progress in 2017.
I got into race kayaking around the age of 10 but I'd enjoyed learning how to paddle plastic boats before that and in 2009 was named by British Canoeing as the youngest ever person to achieve the Paddle Power Discover grade at age seven.
I still really enjoy doing white water paddling for fun, but my main focus, and the sport I train for almost every day of the week, is race kayaking on flat water.
I do both sprint and marathon distances – so that's as short as 200m in lanes and as far as 20 miles or even more in some marathon events, and those are far more tactical as you have to both work with, and compete with, other boats to get ahead and there's lots of stamina needed as you run portages carrying your boat and occasionally fall in too!
In 2015 I became under-14 GB champion in the 500m Sprint K1 (that's racing alone in a one-seater race kayak), and also U14 GB marathon champion. I also represented GB at the French National Marathon Championships.
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In 2016, my first year of U16s, I reached my targets including medaling in crew boats in both the sprint and marathon national championships. In November last year, my Langley School K2 partner James How and I won across the board at the National Schools Kayaking Championships – winning 200m and 500m sprints and marathon races.
I was coached in racing originally at Royal Leamington Spa Canoe Club in the Midlands, but in September 2015 was given an opportunity to attend the kayak academy at Langley School in Loddon, and have been training here, in association with Norwich Canoe Club, whilst studying for my GCSEs at the same time.
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I board at the school and it helps me put a lot of focus into training, as well as my school work. I don't do it because anyone forces me to do it but because I really love it.
There are early mornings and dark evenings and times when you get icicles in your hair but there's camaraderie at every level. I love the fun, the people and the challenges that it brings me!
Being part of the Young Norfolk Sports Academy adds real benefits to my training as it gives me access to world class sports facilities and things such as nutrition and psychology workshops, yoga classes for flexibility and relaxation, and aerobic capacity testing.
It's really good how YNSA also gives the opportunity to socialise with athletes in other disciplines and from schools across Norfolk.
This year is my upper year in U16s so I will be competing hard for podium places but still trying to enjoy it at the same time. I'm spending more time training with GB and super regional squads now and that's brilliant as we travel all over including places like Portugal and Hungary, seeing the world too.
• Now in its third year, the Young Norfolk Sports Association (YNSA) is partnering with the Norfolk Sports Academy to provide support for Norfolk's elite athletes. For more details visit ynsa.org.uk.