Olympic gold heroes return to Nottingham to inspire youngsters
THEIR gold medal-winning efforts were one of the many highlights of the London 2012 Olympics.
And yesterday youngsters met kayakers Etienne Stott and Tim Baillie at their old training ground.
The duo were at the National Water Sports Centre to meet young people hoping to follow in their footsteps.
Wearing the gold medals from the C2 Slalom event, the pair arrived at the White Water Course to greet around 20 canoeists.
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For the Olympians, who both studied at the University Of Nottingham, the centre played a big part in their success.
"It was a huge part," said Mr Stott. "We trained here from 1997 to the end of 2010, so the last 13 to 14 years. It formed the backbone of the techniques we use and our physical ability.
"Training at the London 2012 course was just about the finishing touches but this was the place where we did the hard graft."
Since the race – where teammates Richard Hounslow and David Florence also took silver – the water centre has had an influx of enquiries about slalom canoeing.
Mr Baillie, who has been canoeing since the age of three, said the key to becoming a champion was hard work.
He said: "Principally you have to enjoy it but once you find something you like you've just got to practise, practise practise and constantly want to get better."
Mr Stott added: "You've got to stay in no matter what, whether you've got tough times or not."
Haider Aslam, 12, of West Bridgford, was among the excited youngsters who briefly got their hands on a gold medal.
He hoped that by the 2020 Games he would be in the running for one of his own.
He said: "It's definitely made me more determined and made me work harder and train harder to be the best I can be and we are all just pushing ourselves to the limit to be like them."
Jessica Shepherd, 11, of Long Eaton, said: "It's incredible really because we never expected them to win and we had never heard of them before the Olympics so for them to train here is just so inspiring."
Notts County Council teamed up with GB Canoeing to host the visit.
The council is looking for a partner to take on the running of the water sports centre.
Councillor John Cottee, committee chairman for culture, said: "We are down to two companies and those bids are being analysed by the council and hopefully by the end of the year we will have a result.
"We want the new partnership to bring more investment to the centre and it will also be run in a different way, which is more flexible, and we want to encourage people to come down. The long-term vision is that this will become a country park, as well as a water sports centre."