I guess that’s what happens in the end; you start thinking about the beginning.
There are 4 days to go to the Oceania Open. This will be the final selection race for the Olympic Games. Depending on the result it may be my last race in a 20 year odyssey that has taken me from a small pond in the Forest of Dean to Sydney and many place in between.
I remember writing out my goals when I was about 10 or 11 and they were pretty simple. One was to be Olympic Champion and the other was to grow be 6 foot 6 inches. At 6 foot 2 inches, I have been pretty comfortable for a while, knowing that I would not grow the remaining inches. Knowing that I probably will not reach goal number 1 and realising that is not such a bad thing, has taken me a lot longer to get to grips with.
My career really started for me (in my mind) in Ireland when I was 9. I paddled for Wales for the first time and my photo made the cover of a major Irish Newspaper, needless to say, I thought I had made it! From there I gradually got more and more in to paddling and travelled all over Europe as a Junior. In 2002 I competed at the Junior World Championships.
Then came the move to Australia and the tough transition from the Junior to Senior ranks. In 2006 I made my first Senior World Championships. 2006 was also the year of my first major injury. A broken collar bone and surgery made 2006-2007 a very tough time, that was the first time I had stopped progressing in my sport and my morale suffered accordingly. I fought back hard in 2008 and thought I was on the verge of recapturing the momentum only to dislocate my shoulder. In 2009 I made my second World Championship. This was followed later in the year by a recurrence of my shoulder dislocation, this time I required surgery. Since my return from surgery I have been injury free and even won my first major competition when I won the Oceania Championship in 2011.
I have certainly experienced many ups and downs in my career (slalom pun intended) and my goals for my sport have evolved accordingly. Up until the time of my second injury my life revolved around the result. The rare good result and the world was ok, the much more common bad result and the sky might fall in. Slowly, I have come to the point where a good result would be nice but really, I just hope that I paddle to the best of my ability. This way I can actually happy most of the time. Ironically, if I had told myself this at the start of my career, I would have told myself to shove off (or words to that effect).
What have been the highlights of my time on the water? It is funny to me that probably my fondest memory is not of my paddling but of my sister being promoted to Division 3 (there are Divisions in British slalom) at a flat water course called Langham Farm. She is the reason that I am in this sport and someone I have always tried to emulate and seeing her succeed was better for me than anything I ever did. Of my own paddling, there have not been as many podiums and successes as I dreamt about as a young boy but there have been a few, all too brief times, when the World has seemed to slow and I was in control of the water. One competition in particular stands out in my mind where I felt and paddled like I could take on the World and win.
If I manage to win this weekend then I will be on my way to the London Olympics. If not, my life will start a new journey, one that will be daunting, exciting and new, a life without Slalom but one full of all the wonderful things that Slalom has given me.
I guess that’s what happens in the end; you start thinking about new beginnings.