Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Campbell Walsh

Olympic silver medalist Campbell Walsh is currently in Brazil training and preparing for the world’s. However thanks to the joys of the world wide web I managed to get a quick interview out there to see how he was preparing and generally what it feels like to be a top British slalom kayaker.

Image linked from Campbells website. Check it out to follow his progress overseas

Campbell, you’re currently in Brazil getting ready for the worlds… are you superstitious at all? Are there any rituals you go through before entering a big championship?

No! I just make some plans for the day (when to get up, leave hotel, do warm up, inspect course, meet coach etc…) and try to make sure I keep on time, nothing unusual!

Do you know if any of your fellow competitors go through any bizarre rituals before getting in their boat? Gossip time!

Standing on the river bank with eyes closed, going through the motions and waggling a paddle about whilst doing mental preparation looks pretty silly to me - I always chuckle when I see that.

I hear Brazils full of attractive young ladies wandering around topless? Have you seen any yet? Will photos of aforementioned local scenery be appearing on the Campbell Walsh website?

I wish! It’s all a myth! The male paddlers are not even allowed to walk around at the slalom venue with our shirts off or we will be disqualified from the race (apparently public nudity is illegal in Brazil!!)

How do you cope with the nerves before getting on the water?

Simply get on the water… they usually disappear when I warm-up and find out I can still paddle perfectly well!

Is the sport popular over there?

Brazil? Not really. They have a few good slalom sites (I’ve been to 2 now, and they had the 2007 Worlds on another), but not many paddlers.

I’ve heard good things about the Brazilian course, have you had much chance to train on it yet? What are your main impressions of it?

I was here for 2 weeks training in March and I was not overly impressed with the course – the water was slow in many places, it was quite shallow and I didn’t feel that it was of a World Championship standard. There have been several changes since then and I’m glad to say all have been a vast improvement! In general, the water is much faster and the main feature section has been made more difficult. It is now a very good course. Its not big water, but there is plenty to think about when choosing lines – attention to detail will be key to a fast performance.

Your skill in slalom is pretty renown, but do you ever dabble much in the other disciplines? Playboating, surfing etc,

Not very often. I’ve nothing against the other disciplines, but I would always rather be chasing sticks in my slalom boat!

Are there any other sports you spend time on?

I enjoy most sports - I’m a bit of an exercise addict. I like to focus all my energies into my training sessions, and recover fully for the next one, in order to become as good as I can at paddling, so I choose not to spend much time on other sports. When I retire from paddling I’ll try to do lots more mountain biking, climbing, running and skiing!

How does it feel knowing that there’s probably a 12 year old slalomer out there who says to his dad “When I’m older I want to be like Campbell Walsh?”. Who where your heroes when you where first getting into the sport?

It’s pretty cool to think people might look up to me in that way. For my 1st few years of paddling, I was not exposed to any of the top GB paddlers, so the guys I looked up to were just the best guys in my club.

Thousands of people all across the globe watched you compete at Athens04, have you ever been stopped at the supermarket for an autograph?

No, nobody knows what I look like without a helmet on!!

Sir Steve Redgrave really put the sport of rowing on the map in the UK, do you hope to do the same with slalom kayaking?

I would love to do the same! And slalom is so much more interesting to watch than rowing! But it took Redgrave 3 Olympic Golds before the nation sat up and started to take notice of him… so I’ve got some work to do still!

What drew you to the Lendal modified crank? What shaft material and length do you go for as a preference?

I could see the benefits of using a cranked shaft – better reach on forward strokes, and particularly on slicing bow rudders to make C1 style upstream gates easier. So I thought I’d give one a go and it felt comfortable from the first outing. I prefer Lendal’s Grade2F for stiffness. I use Raab Typ Pisvejc slalom paddles (they are beautiful!) and make them up to 197cm length.

How often a week do you train?

Somewhere between 9 and 12 sessions, depending if its an easy week or a hard week. 3 to 4 of those will be weight training in the gym; the rest will be on the water, almost always a session on whitewater gates. I train every week of the year.

You live in Nottingham now… Does your training schedule allow much opportunity to go home to Scotland?

I tend not go home to Scotland that much, but its nice when I do.

How did you get into the sport?

To start, I went to a ‘learn to canoe’ course on a local lake during the school summer holidays when I was 8. I enjoyed it so took a few more courses, both onto rivers and in swimming pools in winter. Then I joined my club CR Cats when I was 11. They are purely a slalom club, and it all kicked off from there!

Do the rest of your family paddle?

My sister, Kimberley, was also a full-time slalom athlete. She spent several years on the GB Team before retiring in 2006. Her best result was 6th at the 2005 World Champs.

What are your future goals?

To win a World Championships or Olympic Games.

Of all the overseas locations you have competed which really stands out in your mind?

Difficult. No place in particular.

Met any nice foreign ladies?

A few!

You mention on your website that you would love to work for NASA, did you ever want to be an astronaut? What was little Campbells dream job when you where growing up?

I definitely wanted to be an astronaut – I’ve always been interested in space and physics and stuff like that. I also wanted to work at Legoland designing Lego models (my favorite pastime when I was a kid!).

How would you like to see canoe sport progress? Do you think there’s room in the Olympics for more disciplines?

I can’t see room for more disciplines… there is barely room for slalom! Entries have been cut back to only 1 boat per nation. I feel that it de-values the competition – the top 3 in the current World Ranking are all German, yet only 1 of them can go to the Olympics.

What do you think the secret to your success has been? Anyone in particular to thank?

I’ve received great help from a lot of people along the way, but I think ultimately my success has been mostly down to me. I believe that the motivation and dedication necessary for success must come from within.

If you could be anyone for a week who would it be and what would you do?

I’m quite happy being me!

You, Steven Hawking and Claudia Schiffer get locked in a toy shop. What game would you play to pass the time?

Scrabble? Chess?

You spend regular time with a strength coach? Could you wrestle a bear? If you could wrestle anyone who would it be?

Maybe a very small bear! My mate Mitchell, I reckon I could beat him!

Is there much room for junk food within your sports diet?.. In fact, come think of it…. Do you have actually have a diet?

I try to eat healthily but I don’t have a strict diet, and you can certainly spot me tucking into junk food occasionally.

Thanks for your time and good luck with the worlds Campbell, I’m sure everyone over here will have their fingers crossed for you!