Sunday, June 26, 2011

Double Gold ... I can't believe I just won two World Championships

What an incredible event.

Yesterday I competed in two World Championships freestyle kayaking and squirt boating and I won gold in both. Even as I write this I still can't believe it I won two Gold medals!!!! After many years of hard training I am the World Champion in ladies squirt boating for the second time and the World Champion in ladies freestyle kayaking.

Not only this my team mate James Pringle Bebbington is the World Champion in the men’s freestyle kayaking event. Oh my god this is unreal!!!

I have just been on the most amazing journey. I set myself the challenge of training hard to be the best that I can be in freestyle kayaking. This challenge saw me start competitive freestyle in 2001 and brought me into squirt boat kayaking in 2006. In 2007 I won the silver medal in squirt boating at the World Championship which further fuelled my desire to be better and keep training. In 2009 I won the World Championships in squirt boating in Thun an incredible feat. I had trained to be able to complete almost all of the moves, smoothly and almost effortlessly and showcased it at the event. This gave me some excitement and satisfaction but also trigged a will to do the same in freestyle.

I kept training in squirt boating working on the hardest and most complex moves making slow but rewarding progress through hours of training, whilst at the same time working with my coach Dennis Newton to master the complex art of freestyle. In 2010 I felt amazing as this hard work again started to pay off. I began to be able to perform moves I had thought impossible only a few years before. I was getting stronger and fitter on and off the water and loved the excitement of achieving each training goal and finally being able to throw a whole variety of moves. I had heard and seen the American and Canadian girls Emily Jackson and Ruth Gordan pushing the boundaries and was loving being part of the British developments alongside my team mate Emily Wall.

In 2010 at the European Championships I put my new found freestyle skills to the test and won the silver medal. Super stoaked I was fuelled with more excitement and energy to train and push some of the bigger moves. In October things really came together when preparing for the British Championships I realised that for the first time ever in the freestyle class I had too many moves to choose from and was actually in the position where I would have to plan and work out a run and leave some moves out of my routine. In training I was pulling off 800 point rides containing some of the most complex and difficult moves. The event came and I had chance to put this to the test under competition pressure. I didn't score everything and I didn't win but it was the most amazing feeling being able to try all these exciting moves. Again I was fired up and ready to train more. I had a dream that I would compete in the World Championship finals and that I would be able to challenge the best paddlers in the World with some of these move complex moves in a ride.

Yesterday I had this opportunity. Yesterday the dream came true. I made the finals in both events and in a flurry of flips and turns. I won two Worlds!!!

And now 24hrs on I feel more fired up to get out there and learn than ever before. I still know in both freestyle and squirt there are moves I still can't do. There are moves I could perform bigger, smoother and more consistently, with more practice.

I guess this is one of the great things about our sport, about freestyle. There is always more out there, more challenges, more fun, more moves. I love this sport and I am so happy that I am on this journey. I am enjoying every minute and look forward to enjoying loads more...

Thank you to everyone who has shared this journey with me.

Thank you the organisers and everyone involved in the 2011 ICF World Freestyle Kayaking Championships it was an absolute incredible event.

And well done to all the competitors and medal winners.

Loads of photos, videos and reports can be found on

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day 1 ... 1950.320 points

What an awesome day.

I couldn't have asked for a better start to the World Championships.

Heres a video by current K1 World Champion Emily Jackson of the Day 1 action

Today I finished 1st Place in Squirt Boating heats with a massive score of 1950.320 points putting me not only top of the ladies event but also top of the mens, and 3rd place in the K1 Womens Heats.


Well done to evenyone in Team GB who paddled today some awesome runs from all the athletes

Full results can be seen on the ICF website but here is a quick break down...
Claire O'Hara, Islay Crosbie and Lou Turner into the Ladies Squirt finals

Jamie Austin (1st place), Seth Ashworth and Ben Aldred into the Mens Squirt Semi finals

Claire O'Hara, Emily Wall and Jenny Chrimes into the K1 Womens Quater finals

Adam Ramadan into the C1 semi finals
Check out this link to a video of me, islay and millie performing in todays event!/video/video.php?v=10150220701747427&comments
and for more live streaming of the event and details of times and results
Video by Nick Troutman

Loads of rain is forecast later in the week so the organisors are doing all they can to fit the whole event into the next few days so tomorrow is going to be super busy. Good luck to everyone in Team GB competiting tomorrow...

Next step for me are the quarter finals tomorrow from 6.30pm I can't wait

Friday, June 17, 2011

GB Team : 78 minutes

Yes 78 mins is officially how long our 2011 GB team training slots will last this year.

Competitiors gather at Plattling for the event (photo by Seth Asworth)

It is now only days until the start of the event and with so many paddlers now here it is time for the official team training slots to begin. This means that each day between 8am and 9pm the only time we can go out on the wave to practice is in our designated training slot. With Great Britain once again having the largest squad we have been given a 78 minute slot which works out to 3 minute per paddler. This doesn’t sound like an a lot but it works really well as it means we get some quality water time in which we can manage as a team to make sure we are all prepared as possible. The session times change each day and today we have a 3.51pm start time giving us a nice relaxing start to the day whereas tomorrow we will be up early for the first slot with a 8am start time. This year is the first time for a long time that squirt boating is taking place on exactly the same venue so an extra squirt boating training session has been allocated from 8pm-9pm each evening to help allow everyone uninterrupted training. Outside of this its open team training from 9pm – 7.45am so the wave is going to be super busy all through the night with everyone trying to get as much practice in as possible before the start of the event.

We are really lucky to have an amazing support team on hand at this year’s event and our coaching team of Dennis Newton, Sam Ward and Ben White will be on hand at each of the trainings and supporting us throughout the event to help us put together the best possible runs. We also have the support of Dave Newton team manager and Tim Ward GB Freestyle committee chairman and assistant team manager who will be helping make sure all the logistics are sorted and that we are all on time to our events. Sally Montgomery team physio will be completing our support team and fixing us all when she arrives on Saturday. And we have a team of judges who will be part of the ICF panel who will be arriving over the next few days. We also have a massive support team back home who have helped us all train and prepare for this event. Special thanks must go to Matt Chadder for organising this year’s team trainings and also Dianne Ward for sorting out the team kit which looks amazing. (photos will follow soon).

New 2011 Peak UK Kit

I have just received some awesome new kit from the team at Peak UK. You will be able to spot the GB Freestyle Peak UK team paddlers Joe Bradley, Jenny Chrimes and Claire O’Hara at this year’s by their funky new GB coloured and custom coloured speed skin top decks and racer pro pfd’s.

Designed by Pete Astles and with artwork by Jenny Chrimes these new super light weight and flexible cag decks as perfect for freestyle.

I tested out my new Speed Skin Top decks and racer pro pfd yesterday on a squirt boating session and it is awesome. It is so comfy and the graphics look amazing. Everyone has been commenting on it and saying how great it looks. I love the cut, shape, colours, design and the fact that it is so light weight. It almost feels like you are not wearing a cag as it is so fluid and does not affect your movement at all, how do I say... it’s unrestrictive???

Team Gb's Islay Crobsie and Claire O'Hara having fun during training

So with team training officially starting in just a few hours I am looking forward to putting together some competition rides and testing out my new freestyle kit.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

8 days and counting

I have been out in Plattling Germany at the site of the Worlds training for the last 3 weeks and there is now only 8 days left to the start of the event. and things are beginning to get quite exciting. Competitors from across the World have been arriving and the wave is already super busy with everyone trying to get as much training as possible on the feature before the start of the event. My training is going really well and I have been working on balancing my freestyle and squirt boat training.

The most exciting thing that has happened in the last few weeks is the arrival of theshiny new small carbon rock stars. Last week me and Emily Wall drove to the Chech Republic to pick up the first two small carbon rock stars out of the mould. We had eagerly been awaiting this moment for the last few months and it was a very exciting as we arrived at the Gala sport factory to see our super shiny black carbon boats.

Shiny New Rock Stars at the Gala Sport Factory (photo by Emily Wall)

Recently carbon kayaks have been taking over the top end of freestyle, lighter and stiffer than the plastic boats they have begun to dominate the top level of competition. These new composite boats have allowed paddlers to move around the feature a lot faster and throw moves higher and quicker than ever before.

I was very excited to receive my new boat and quickly set about testing it out on the water. During my warm up I could feel that the boat was super light especially on the flat water when doing cartwheels and loops, but I was surprised to find that initially I didn’t really notice a massive difference on the moving water. I’m not sure what I had been expecting but the transition was pretty easy and the boat felt very similar to the plastic rock star which I have spent the last few months paddling. But when I got off the water and looked at the video I suddenly realised that how much looser it had been on the wave, the speed it had given during rotations and how easily it had pulled through at the end of each move. It had allowed me to move around the feature with very little effort or resistance and perform super fast loops, cartwheels and mcnastys and finish everything so much clearer and with alot less effort than in the plastic. It looked great and everyone commented on how good the rides had looked in it.

Now I have had the boat out on the water for a few days I am really beginning to feel the benefis of the composite and I am super stoked to keep training in it and fully maximising benefits offered by its light weight, stiffness and speed.

Calire O Testing out the New Carbon Rock Star (photo by Emily Wall)

I will be keeping my plastic rock star and if the water drops and the feature gets shallow I may even use it at this event. I love the fact that the transition is so easy and that I have the choice of two boats in two materials both of the same design.

Here is a link to more photos of me and Emily in the new Carbon Jackson Rock Star S.

Yorkshire Evening Post Sport Sunday Article 11th June 2011

Leeds kayaking ace harbours double ambition INTERVIEW

editorial image

Claire O'Hara in action.

LEEDS kayaking ace Claire O’Hara once again has world domination in her sights – the Yorkshire ace better prepared than ever for a new double mission in Germany.

O’Hara is already British, European and World squirt boat kayaking champion and will attempt to defend the latter title when the World Championships begin in nine days’ time.

However, this year the Meanwood ace is also seeking glory in the freestyle event with preparations so far perfect following three weeks’ training in Plattling, south east Germany.

Not only has O’Hara had ample time to acclimatise but thanks to West Yorkshire’s Volkswagen Van Centre, the 29-year-old now has a new Volkswagen Transporter T5 – custom fitted for life on the road as a kayaker.

Featuring a bed, storage space for her kayaks and equipment plus a comfy living space with refrigerator, it has left the 29-year-old in the best shape possible in search of not just one but two kayaking crowns.

“There is now only nine days left to the start of the event and things are beginning to get quite exciting,” said O’Hara, speaking from Germany this week.

“Competitors from across the world have been arriving over the last few weeks and the wave is already super busy with everyone trying to get as much training as possible on the feature before the start of the event.

“My training is going really well and I have been working on balancing my freestyle and squirt boat training as I am competing in two events. I hope not only to defend my World Championship title but also beat my previous freestyle world ranking and hopefully add to it with a second medal.

“I am really looking forward to the start of the event and being able to put all my training into practice.”

Practice that has been stress free with the added luxury of her new vehicle. Expressing her delight at her new ‘home’, self-funded O’Hara added: “These events are massive for me and without this sponsorship, I’d be really stuck.

“It would be similar to paddling my kayak without any paddles!

“It is once again going to be another very busy competitive year which will involve a lot of travelling across Europe and the UK but luckily I have the fantastic support of the Volkswagen Van Centre.”

It is indeed about to be an extremely busy time for O’Hara who following the 10-day World Championships will return back to Leeds to prepare for her forthcoming assault on the British Championships Series.

All this while working part-time as a sports co-ordinator at Notre Dame Sixth Form College but despite the busy schedule, O’Hara has ambitious plans.

“Last year I won my fifth British Championship title in squirt boating beating not only the women but also all the men and I came second in the freestyle series,” she explained. “This year I have my eyes on both the British freestyle and squirt boating championship titles.

“For the first year ever the winner of the British Championships will also get automatic selection for the 2012 British team for the 2012 European Championships which will be taking place in Vienna next summer so it is even more important for me to stay focused and keep training hard.”

O’Hara added: “It is amazing to be able to be living my dream and competing at the highest level in my sport.

“I have been really lucky to have amazing support from a lot of people. Now I really hope I can pull all this hard work and training together.”