K1 MEN 200m (Paracanoe A)

The Paracanoe team drove out to Germany on 24th September 2013 loaded with the boats and took Euro tunnel across. On the first day of the competition (Monday 26th) the team had training and start bucket practice. My first race was on Wednesday 28th and I was in Heat 2 at 10:40am racing the Polish athlete Jakub Tokarz who beat me in the European championships in June. My first goal was to win my heat and beat Tokarz, which I did and it was close on the line but job done and straight through to the final which was set for Friday 30th. The weather in Duisburg was good with temperature low to mid 20’s and a slight head wind.

On the Thursday I watched some of the other GB athletes compete in their finals, which was very stress full and exciting at the same time. Some of the team had also competed on the Wednesday with heats and some had straight finals. I did another practice session on the Thursday afternoon, working through my process.

I found it hard being one of the last GB athletes waiting to compete in the final when the rest of the team had done the race and got medals, so the pressure was more intense. The atmosphere at the event was amazing with over 850 athletes both Paracanoe and Olympic from around the World. The evening before my final I was not feeling great, and in the early hours of the Friday morning I was being sick and had a very bad stomach and spent the rest of the night in the bathroom. I was due to leave the hotel at 8:15am Friday, and at 7:45 my coach knocked on my door to see if I was up because I did not come to breakfast. I just said I had gone to eat early before anyone was up, but the truth was I was still in the bathroom not well and not able to eat or drink as nothing would stay in me.

I kept quiet and got down to the lake, the noise was amazing as some of the Olympic athletes were racing early and the crowds were growing even before 9am. My final was at 10:40 and I was in lane 4 again as the fastest qualifier gets the middle lane. This was great as it was exactly the same set up as my heat. I warmed up in the GB camp area and got ready to get on the lake, by this time the rest of the team were down ready to watch and the noise from the crowd was getting louder.

I started my water warm up as it was a long way to the start area over 1500 meters, the weather was good and warming up with no significant wind. I was called to the start area and then to the start bucket, they announced lane 4 Ian Marsden Great Britain and the noise was amazing even 200 meters away as we had a big GB following with flags all over the stands. The bucket went down and race on, I had a slow start but stuck to my plan and got to speed quick and kept going. I could not see anyone next to me as I never can when I race I just focus down the lane. I crossed the line and next to me Fernando Fernandes from Brazil also crossed the line and I heard only one beep. When the rest had finished I paddled to the big screen with all the athletes and the replay was on, we had to wait for a photo finish. The announcement came and Fernando had won Gold with me second and less than 100th of a second in it. It was so very close and the best race ever, he was dead over the last 20 meters and I was on it. Fernando has been racing for 5 years and has been number 1 since the start, and I have only been racing a year. No other person has ever been that close before, even last year the second person over the line was 6 seconds back like all the other years. We had both smashed the World record too on that race. He admitted he was very nervous before the race and he panicked and had to change his game plan in the race. One thing I always remember is the noise of the crowd, drums and air horns on the last 150 meters it was amazing.