Lienz, European Champs

To kick of the trip, Claire O’Hara and Dennis Newton stayed at my house on the Saturday 10th of June and we had to be at the ferry at 12 o’clock on Sunday. A 10 hour drive to Platting and crashed there for the night and have a quick paddle on the hole on the Monday morning before driving the last 4 hours to Lienz. We arrived at Lienz about 7pm on the Monday the drive thought the mountains was one of the most stunning scenery I have every seen in my life – water running down the mountains, snow on the mountain tops and the fresh air felt so nice to breath in.

That night we arrived it was tipping with rain so putting up tents was a quick job, we had 25mm of rain in the night which was good for us – it gave me and Claire one week of perfect levels training on the hole along with Bren Orton, Pringle, James Weight, Andy Brinkley and Jack Gunter so it was a good GB line up in the eddy. That week there weren’t many paddles – just us really – and after the bad weather on the first night it was amazing weather (25-30 degrees) for the rest of the week and more. The hole is a very tricky feature I’m glad a lot of the GB paddlers had time on the wave before the event. When your moves went they were perfect – huge and clean – but if you plugged or set up wrong you ended up with a beat down or you would just get frustrated.

We had the hole to ourselves for about a week and a half before some people started to show up, but even then it wasn’t too busy. Towards the end of the week we were all started to feel happy with our moves and getting our runs together. But as we had such good weather this did not help the water so much – the water was starting to get very low before the event. I felt quite happy as I was in a plastic boat and a lot of other athletes were in carbon boats, which means lots of repairs. I think we were all happy that we got to train on the hole two weeks before most athletes started to show up. When the water levels started to drop there were only two things to do: 1. Stakeout and hang around all day and hop on the water as quickly as possible if the levels went up (but most the time as soon as it came up and you got all your kit on then hopped on the water it was super low again) or 2. Go swimming at the local pool where we could get in for free and just jump off the driving boards or go on the water slides. There has also been a lot of banter but if I talk about it I will be doing it for hours, you will probably be hearing about some of the other stuff we got up to.

Before we new it, it was the opening ceremony and we all got in team kit to go the venue which was a castle in the mountains which was one of the most amazing castles I have ever seen. The ceremony had a great vibe and good music from some local drummers and there was free beer (most of us stayed away but others had one too many). The next two days were official team training slots – team GB had good times the first day between 5-6pm and the next day between 1-2pm. This was a chance to practice our runs out for real with a bit of pressure and more realistic to our the Event. The whole team was looking incredible – great runs from all paddlers. We were all feeling pumped and really for the event!

On the Tuesday evening before the event we all went out for a team dinner at the pizzeria which was so so good – the food was awesome and perfect before-comp food. On the Wednesday morning the event kicked of with the prelims for K1 junior men, K1 senior ladies, C1 and OC1 Prelims. OC1 kicked of the prelims with some good and funny rides and OC1 should be both Team GB team members making into the finals with both paddlers on 1st and 2nd position. Then the next heat was junior men – 2 rides, both count. For the prelims team GB dominated again with myself in 3rd, James Benns in 2nd, Bren Orton in 1st and Sam Stevenson in 4th GB taking the top 4 places in the prelims moving into the semi finals. Next up was senior ladies with Claire O’Hara – the only GB ladies to go though to the semis, Emily Wall having a tough day not making the cut but she knows that she can do it! And is working hard for the worlds in the USA!

The next day was Junior ladies and Senior men prelims most of Team GB making the top 20 for the quarter finals but sadly Gav Barker had a injury and put down a huge ride even with that injury – well done Gav! Our junior ladies Jen and Kim did well in making the junior ladies final on the Saturday. The Friday was the hardest day of the senior men having quarter finals in the morning and semi finals in the afternoon. Bit of a bad day for GB today as myself, Claire O’Hara, Adam Ramadam and Alan Ward all placed 7th in the semi-finals. Just having an off day and not performing to the level we would have liked. So we had no senior Ladies in the finals, but James Weight and Pringle made it to the final of the senior men. James Benns, Bren Orton and Sam Stevenson made it to the finals of the Junior men and took home the top 3 spots. Sadly this is Bren and Sam’s last year in Junior men but will do very well in senior men! Bren taking home the gold medal, James taking home the silver and Sam taking home the bronze all for GB well done boys proud of ya!

In the finals on the senior men was the most intense finals out of them all! The underdog from Spain Quim just moving into the seniors laid down the biggest run of the event with a score of 1,170 (I think) he could not be touched after that run and took the home the gold medal for Spain. The fight was on for 2nd and 3rd, with James Weight paddling very well but just came sort of 3rd place but beating the 2010 European Champ Peter Csonka who had a very bad injury but still made it to the finals and paddled to a top level! The fight for second was down to Pringle for GB and Seb from France Seb was doing the best entry move of the event a fisherking linked into a McNasty. Seb just pulled it off, taking home the Silver medal and Pringle taking home the Bronze medal!

Well-done team!
Big thanks to

Sam Ward (Coach)
Denis Newton (Coach)
Katherine (Physio)
Hippy Dave (Team Manager)
Tim Ward (Team Manager)
Also to everyone that made the European Champs 2012 an event to remember

Big Thanks to

Kokatat
SnapDragon
WRSI Helmets
Mitchell Blades
SquareRock
Bio-Synergy

For your Support

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Brandon Hepburn GBR Team