Ben Aldred – His Eupropean Championship experience where he became the EUROPEAN CHAMPION for Freestyle Squirt Boat 2012
After months of selections and team training it was finally time to start my journey to Lienz in Austria for the European Championships. This was my first European Competition but if the World Championships were anything to go by I couldn’t wait. Yet the big difference this time was I had my new boat. Jason from Big Dog Kayak had sorted me out a made to measure Big Dog Karma, this was my first ever Big Dog boat and having only paddled this boat 5 times before going to Lienz I was looking forward to paddling this boat to its full potential. With my Karma being made to measure it was easier to perfect moves and keep the boat underwater.
My journey started at 22:00 on the 21st of July when my family Mum ,Dad and two sisters Kimberlee and Charlee and I left Milton Keynes to head down to Dover to catch a ferry over to France. After arriving in France at around 05:00 on the 22nd we started our drive to Austria. Unfortunately we didn’t make it all the way as we were all getting tired so we ended up camping on the side of a mountain on Friday night just twenty-five miles away from Lienz. Saturday morning we finished the 909 mile trip and arrived in Lienz.
Once we had arrived the first job was to unpack, luckily this didn’t take that long which means both myself and my sister Kimberlee who was also competing in the junior ladies was then free to paddle. Not knowing what to expect from the water and feature itself I decided to paddle my float boat first, I also wanted to have a play in the feature before starting my training so I knew what to expect in the squirt boat, specially seeing as my squirt boat is a lot longer than a float boat.
On the Sunday after I had another paddle in my float boat to see how the water levels and feature can change overnight it was time to get registered for the competition. When registering I had to sign for and pick up my bib, I got given number 151. Once I had received my bib it was time for our team meeting, this team meeting was where I found out when my training sessions were and when I would be competing. As soon as team meetings were over I decided to have one more paddle in my float boat before my training started.
Monday morning I was enjoying the weather and chilling out with my family and friends as I had my first team training in the afternoon. In this team training I decided to work on my mystery moves on the eddy line near the feature, this was to get used to how deep the water was. After getting showered and changed we had the opening ceremony which was hosted at an old castle in the mountains. For this we all got ready in our team kit and listened to the guest speaker saying how they were glad to have us in Lienz and how they were looking forward to an exciting competition.
Tuesday lunch time was my next team training where I started to link up my mystery moves to the rest of my run. I tried the many different ways to see which worked best and made my run look better. With some help from my coaches, Dennis Newton and Sam Ward, I was able to get advice and tips on getting my routine competition ready. Once team training was finished I went down the lake with a few friends where Claire O’Hara the world champion helped me by giving me some advice on how to perfect my routine, Claire also went through moves with me so I had a chance to improve and seeing she is World Champion in squirt boating I was extremely grateful for her help. That evening was our team meal at Pizzeria, it was nice to have time to chill with my family and the whole team together before the competition started.
Prelims started on Wednesday, so it was time to support the other member of the team and give my support to my sister Kimberlee as she plays a big part of supporting me and with men’s squirt being the last event on that day I had the whole day to watch all the other prelims take place which was a nice relaxing way to spend my day before my competition. Finally it was my turn to compete, I had two rides in the prelims which added together will determine my place. After my two runs had finished and we were waiting for the results I got the chance to reflect on my performance. Personally I felt like I had done well in my runs, thinking I had come at least half way up the table I was made up to see my name at the top.
With a positive attitude after my performance in the prelims I had my next challenge, the semi-finals! Once again I waited for my turn to do my runs, nerves are high today knowing I got 1st in the prelims I wanted to do just as well in the semis. After my two runs I felt like my runs hadn’t gone as well as they did the day before. When the scores had been released and I had placed 3rd I was a bit disappointed but knew I had to use today to get my final performance up the standard to win gold.
After having the Friday free to spend time with my family chilling in the swimming pool and enjoying the other events it gave me time to relax before my finals on Saturday,
Saturday, my family and I were up early and made sure we were down at the feature so that there were no setbacks and my mum and dad made sure that there was nothing my sister or I had to worry about as there were plenty of fluids
and healthy food to eat to keep us hydrated. My finals, my event was the first event up which I was glad for because with nerves running high I could get it out the way and then enjoy supporting my sister Kimberlee without worrying about my finals. The finals I had three runs with the highest scoring run being my overall score. With my three runs completed I had mixed emotions about the event. I felt my first run wasn’t anything to be proud of; my third run in my eyes had gone as well as the semi-finals. Personally my second run was definitely my best out of the three. Once all the other competitors had finished the entire finalist stood in a group awaiting the results. Everyone was talking about their runs but I just kept my opinions to myself. Expecting only to get bronze or silver medal out of the finals I couldn’t believe it when my name got read out in first place, I had won the gold medal.
There was a flower giving ceremony with an interview straight after, which as much as I hate speaking in public I knew I had to talk about my runs. After my event I could see my family cheering and jumping around I had made them proud and had done what I had started to do which was to perform to the best of my ability and it had paid off. I went to watch the rest of the events including my sister Kimberlee in the K1 Junior Women which was up next so no time for celebrating it was time to give my support to my sister who was so excited for me.
Kimberlee had also three run and she had three solid rides, just missing the medals but a good 4th place. Junior men’s and then ladies and men events took place it was a great day for team GB as there were lots of medals
Once all the events were completed we had the medal giving ceremony where I received my gold medal. Standing on the podium knowing all my family and friends were proud of me was the best feeling in the world. After watching everyone else getting there medals and all the photos had been taken there was a party to mark the end of the event.
Sunday morning it was time to pack up and start to 909 mile journey back to Milton Keynes, but not without a stop in Platting Germany for my little sister Charlee s birthday where we had a chance to paddle a great wave this gave my family and I to just enjoy one another company before heading home back to the normal routine at home. Finally after a long day of travelling I finally arrived back in Milton Keynes at 06:00 Tuesday morning.