Rachel Cawthorn is currently training hard and looks on course to represent Team GB in canoeing at the Rio Olympics; which would be the second consecutive Olympic Games of her career.

Rachel Cawthorn

Rachel Cawthorn

As well as training hard for the Games, Rachel is also throwing her support behind National Go Canoeing Week, which is designed to get more people to try out the sport.

We caught up with her to chat about National Go Canoeing Week and how training is going ahead of this summer in Rio.

- National Go Canoeing Week is about to get underway so can you tell us a little bit about the new initiative from British Canoeing and how people can get involved?

The initiative has been running for four years and involves getting different kinds of people involved in paddle sports in all different forms. They offer starter sessions and guided tours to introduce people to the sports all over the country. This involves challenging the nation to paddle a certain amount of miles which can then be logged on the Go Canoeing website.

- Many people will be unfamiliar with this sports so what tips would you give to those who are going to be trying canoeing for the first time as part of this initiative?

Probably expect to get a bit damp. It's a great way of getting outdoors. You don't notice that you're being active all the time because it's just fun being outside. You can kind of make it as hard or as easy as you want. In terms of tips, I would definitely advise wearing the right gear, which is warm and waterproof, but you don't need top end gear. One of the best things about canoeing is that it is accessible to anyone.

- And how great a way is canoeing to keep fit?

To me, it is a really fun way to keep fit. Especially on warms days when it allows you to be outdoors exploring the secrets of the countries rivers. Personally, I really like the racing side and training really hard, having big challenges and putting everything into it.

- You are a K1 and K4 spring kayaker, so how did you get into this sport in the first place?

I got into it through a talent identification scheme in 2004 through my school. They made us take a test and I scored well on it so they invited me to come and join their programme and I loved it straight away. The first time I went along I kept falling in but eventually I got better at it and started competing and I really loved it.

- How important are events like this to boost the profile of British canoeing?

Well, hopefully, we can show what a great sport it is. There really are so many different types of paddle sports that people can try. We also have Rio coming up and we're trying to get people in the Olympic mood which will hopefully encourage them to try something new and fun.

- We are now less than one hundred days away from the Rio Olympics, so what kind of shape are you in as you compete to land a place on the GB team?

Hopefully good. I won the selection race last round and earned the right to be nominated for team GB, so right now I am training really hard.

- In 2012, you finished 5th in the women's K4 500m final and sixth in the K1 500m but how do you feel that you have improved over the last four years? What are you aiming for at the Olympics this time around?

I feel like things developed naturally, I learned a lot from competing in the games. This year has been quite challenging, in my case I missed a lot of training in the winter from being quite unwell. Therefore had to build training back up a lot more on my own and that's made me feel like I'm in a much stronger place this time round. I wouldn't say I was bad before but I just feel mentally tougher and really ready for it now so I'm hoping to improve on the last time.

- London 2012 was your first Olympic Games, so what did you learn there that will stand you in good stead for Rio?

I think because it was the first one and it was at home it was such a big deal and it was quite overwhelming. This time, I'm going to race and not getting caught up in anything else going on around it, for example being excited about being in the village. You can enjoy these things but there not going to distract me from what I am doing.

- The British sprint team for the Olympics will be announced later this month, so what kind of training are you doing at the moment? How will that change as the Games come closer?

Well since we had the first round of selection, we kind of went back to basics again getting lots and lots of miles in. We have also got back in the gym and we're going away racing later this month, so we have been practicing for this and getting lots of race experience in. Later in the year the training will get more intensive as we get closer to the races.

- How strong is British canoeing at the moment? Are there real medal contenders in the team?

It is a very exciting place, there are a few categories where we have a chance. We got medals in both the K1 and K2 200 disciplines in London so will have another good chance there. I am also hopeful that my K4 and K1 has an opportunity to do something as well and I'm really looking forward to it.

- It is hard to believe that London 2012 is four years ago, what are your memories of the Games when you look back on them now?

In a way it feels a bit odd, people keep mentioning how long ago it feels. I think for us because we've been training all the time it doesn't feel like it went that quickly and I feel like I'm ready to go again.

- Finally, what is in store for you between now and the Games in Rio?

Lots of training basically, a bit of racing to get that experience in and then just before the games we're heading off to Rio to the camp just to test the waters out there and yeah just do the final preparations before the games.

National Go Canoeing Week is taking place across the UK from Saturday 28th May - Sunday 5th June. To find activities taking place near you, visit gocanoeingweek.org.uk

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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