Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2011: What an incredible year

Double World Championship win in Germany

As I look back on this year and reflect on the fantastic journey I have been on, the beautiful places I have been to, the lovely people I have met and had the pleasure to share the amazing experiences with along the way, and the many goals that I have not only set but also met, it reminds me how incredibly lucky I am and how incredible this year has been.

Celebrating winning the Freestyle World Championships with my mum surrounded by friends

2011 began for me in London where I celebrated New Year and started the year off as I hoped it would continue: kayaking with friends at Hurley weir and performing at the London Boat Show supported by family and friends. During this time the BBC 1 ‘Inside Out’ Documentary, which we had filmed during the British Championship and GB team selection series in 2010, aired across the UK. I was also nominated for Sports Woman of the Year and highly commended at the Leeds Sports Awards. At this moment it was already clear it was going to be an exceptional year filled with incredible opportunities and experiences.

Performing on the Watersports Arena at the London Boat Show

With my Dad at the 2010 Leeds Sports Awards

Next up was training: I knew I had less than 6 months to train for the biggest event so far in my life, the 2011 World Freestyle Kayaking Championships. I had big ambitions and goals for this event so training became a very high priority in my life. I was focused and goal driven, I wanted to defend my squirt boating world championships title and add to it with a medal in freestyle as well.

Squirt Boating in the finals at the World Championships (photo by Andy Aldred)

Den (Sweetwater Coaching) trained me, he helped me balance and structure my training so I could achieve maximum progression and develop as much as possible in the time available. He kept my feet on the ground and my focus real. I also had the help of sport physiotherapist Fraser McKinney (Carnegie Sports Physiotherapy Clinic) who helped ensure that I was training properly and kept me injury free. In the lead up to the World Championships I spent 7 weeks training at the site in Germany and the rest of the time was spent at the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham and in the Swimming Pool at Leeds Met University.

Den Coaching me to win Gold in the finals at the Worlds

Dennis Newton : Sweet Water Coaching

The World Championships took place at the Plattling wave in Germany. This was by far the biggest and most successful event of my competitive career so far. I won both World gold medals; defending my World Squirt Boating Champion title and adding to it with the World Freestyle Kayaking Champion title as well. It was an incredible event and an amazing experience that I got to share with my family and friends.

Celebrating success. World Champions Claire O'Hara and James 'Pringle' Bebbington

After this it was back to the England to compete on the UK competition circuit. I competed at the Peak UK Summer Sausage Sizzle and at the new Cardiff IWWC. I spent some time at work and had the opportunity to take a lovely group of students on an adventure residential to the Lake District.

Students enjoying life on the rivers in the Lakes

Then it was time to jet out to the French Alps to run some coaching trips with my good friends Kelvin Horner and Kevin Beattie. A quick 10 days back in the UK and I was off again this time to Canada to train on the Ottawa river and Lachine. Then I was back in the UK for the British Championship series. A busy month or two ensued as I juggled training, competing, presentations and appearances and work both at Notre Dame 6th Form College and on the Leeds Met University Residential in the Lakes. Training hard and competing consistently throughout the year I managed to win both British Championships titles to add to my two World Championship gold medals. I was also nominated as a Female Rider of the Year for the 2011 Rider of the Year Awards.

Rider of the Year II Awards Video from Tribe Alliance on Vimeo.

Final cut congratulations to all the winners

Scouting out our route on a Ver Ferrata above Chateau Quras Gorge

Kelvin and ClaireO relaxing after a hard days coaching in the Alps

In November the BCU held its 75th anniversary Dinner and I was invited along. The event celebrated the incredible success of the entire British Freestyle Team and the developments in British paddle sport on the whole.

2011 GB Freestyle Kayaking Team and Staff

I am now having a well earned rest from freestyle. Instead hitting the rivers each time it rains and the gym. I am already well under way planning and preparing for 2012 & 2013. I am planning on competing at the British & European Championships, TEVA Mountain Games, World Cups and a North American Tour in the USA in 2012 and the World Freestyle Kayaking Championships at the NOC in the USA in September 2013. It looks like it is going to be another incredible, adventure and travel filled few years and I can’t wait.

Claire O

My first stop in 2012 will be in Morocco where I will be training out on the surf at New Year. This will be followed by the London Boat Show, where I will be performing, coaching and giving talks with my GB team mate and fellow World Freestyle Champion James Bebbington from the 9th – 15th January. You are all welcome to come along.

Freestyle World Champions: Claire O'Hara and James 'Pringle' Bebbington

Thank you to everyone; sponsors, coaches, friends and family, who have supported me and helped, make 2011 such a wonderful and successful year.

Volkswagen Van Center West Yorkshire