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Archive for August 9th, 2012

Odds blog: Olympic experiences – a different sort of boating!

Posted by indigodream on 9 August, 2012

Rewind to Monday 30th July

View “upstream” at the Lee Valley White Water Centre…

We were so excited today – we were to attend our first ever Olympic sporting event as paid up spectators! Doubly exciting was the fact that the only sports tickets we got were for the white water slalom at the purpose-built Lee Valley White Water centre. This is up in the Lee Valley Country Park adjacent to the Lee Navigation between Waltham Abbey and Cheshunt – one of our favourite mooring spots.

Of course, mooring is restricted on that stretch for the duration of the games, but we did have an ambitious plan to take Indigo Dream up there and moor just ‘upstream’ of the restrictions at Cheshunt. Richard actually booked our passage as soon as we got confirmation of the tickets – back in September 2011. Despite our chasing them, we only got confirmation of our passage on the 27th July – much too late for us to actually make the transit. We were extremely frustrated by this, but that’s for another post….

The Olympic tickets came with a “Zone 1 – 9” travelcard which covered our entire trip from home to the venue – this was an added bonus and was worth half the ticket price! So we took the train to Cheshunt – we got seats all the way and the train was not congested – result! The Olympic travel guide said it was a 30 minute walk from Cheshunt Station to the White Water Centre -we were running a bit late so we thought we’d circumvent this by taking a taxi direct to the centre; however traffic restrictions around the the main entrance meant that we were dropped off by Waltham Abbey lock and still had a 15 minute walk to the venue!

When we got to the venue, we found that our seats had been changed (long story) – our new seats were magnificent! We got a splendid view and could see the whole course bar the first 5 gates – we got a particularly good view of the drop called “Ben Nevis”, of three of the trickiest ‘upstream’ gates and of the finish line. The whole course looked magnificent, and though the grandstands will go, the course itself will remain as part of the Olympic legacy – brilliant!

We’ve never been to a white water slalom before, so I industriously researched the ‘rules’ (by watching an event on TV) the day before – I briefed Richard before the start of the first event – the men’s C2 (two men in a canoe) followed by the women’s K1 (one woman in a kayak).

We simply had the best time – white water slalom is a great spectator sport and the audience was buzzing, spurred on by the on-site commentary, which is much more animated than anything you’ll hear on the BBC! The paddlers were accompanied by stirring music – as if the constant roar of the water, the cheers from the crowd and the frantic paddling weren’t exciting enough!

It was all great, but my favourite competitor was Hilgertova Stepanka, who is 44 years old and competed in her first Olympics in 1992 – she has competed in every one since, winning a total of two gold medal. I got very cross at an article on Radio 4 last week, when women who had pinned all of their self-esteem on the trappings of youth suddenly found themselves ageing – “I’ve become invisible” bleated one 44-year old; well, you’re only invisible if you chose to be – look at Hilgertova! She is my new role model, though I’ll never see 44 again and I certainly don’t intend to take up white water kayaking πŸ™‚

Apart from all the boating action, a couple of things tickled me today. The first was the fact that the ladies’ kayak has to weigh a minimum of 9 kg – yet many of the ladies themselves packed a substantial 68Kg plus (all muscle, of course!). The other was the commentator saying how brave one pair of male canoeists were to carry on after accruing and enormous 52 second penalty within seconds of starting the course – but really, what choice did they have but to carry on with the water sweeping them along at13,000 litres per second!

We had thought our tickets covered a 2 hour time slot – we were therefore shocked to suddenly find that it was 5.30pm – four hours had passed in the blink of an eye, though time probably moved a lot slower for the hounds at home. We made haste to leave and, this time, walked to Cheshunt Station – it was a pleasant walk with a convenient short-cut through the Country Park. The transport worked very efficiently, but it seemed to take a long time to get home – we were tired after the thrills of the afternoon – what a great experience…


The view ‘downstream’ – the spectator seating will be removed after the Games, but the rest will stay as part of the legacy – what a wonderful resource…

Florence and Hounslow from Team GB – they went on to win the silver medal a few days later – whoo hoo!!

I hadn’t realised quite how physical this sport is – I was exhausted just watching the amount of effort was required to avoid getting caught by the waves..

At times the canoes seemed to buried in the water – you’d think they’d just be swept ‘downstream’ but some of the “stopper” waves just hold them in place – this slows them down and escaping saps their energy..

The rules are very lax about whether you do down the course forwards, backwards, or sideways – or any combination you can manage – they would prefer the paddler to stay on top though πŸ™‚

This is Lizzie Neave, from Stone! How did a sensible girl from ‘canal central’ get into this form of boating I wonder? πŸ™‚

Upside down – you can just see the bottom of the kayak behind the grey pole – officials rushed to help but she had righted herself before the life-guards had to dive in…


This is Hilgertova Stepanka – my favourite competitor – she is 44 and competed in her first Olympics in 1992!She eventually got to the final but just missed out on a medal – shame..

See the ‘life guards’ ont he far bank? One was attached to an orange safety line, but there were several others, unattached, patrolling the course. In an emergency I wondered whether they stop the water flow – how long would it take to stop I wonder?

Florence and Hounslow of Team GB again….

BIG cheer now for Baillie and Stott of Team GB – they went on to win GOLD!

Baillie and Stott – did I mention that they won Gold a few days later???

And another of Baillie and Stott- eventual Olympic champions…

These are the famous Hochschorner twins – they were expected to run away with the Gold medal in the final, but they were beaten into bronze medal position by Team GB!

My hero – Hilgertove Stepanka – taking on “Ben Nevis”…

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