Britain’s top canoe sprint athletes returned from their warm weather training camp in Brazil this week in time to celebrate the opening of their new elite training centre at Dorney Lake near Windsor.
London 2012 Olympic medallists Ed McKeever, Jonathan Schofield and Liam Heath, along with other squad members, were on hand to welcome Helen Grant MP, Minister for Sport and Tourism, as she performed the official opening.
The new facility has been funded with £679,000 from Sport England, which has worked closely with elite sport experts from UK Sport and British Canoeing to make this a world class, purpose-built training venue for our elite athletes.
Charles Johnston, Sport England’s Property Director, said: "If our athletes are going to continue to be successful on the international stage, they need training facilities that meet their very specific need. That’s what we have at Dorney Lake now.
"This project has created a truly world class environment for our elite paddlers to thrive in. It comes as a result of a strong partnership between Sport England and UK Sport and a joint commitment to develop the network of elite training centres in England."
The project has also benefited from innovative partnership working between British Canoeing, Sport England and UK Sport, along with Eton College (owners of the Dorney Lake site) and Serco (who manage the site), which will secure the centre’s long-term future, whilst ensuring access arrangements for the sport.
Rod Carr, Chair of UK Sport, said: "To achieve world class performances, athletes and staff need access to world class facilities. This new training centre will help the sprint programme at British Canoeing achieve their potential at this critical time on the road to Rio.
"The fantastic facility will also be a jewel in the crown of British Canoeing and a venue that the next generation of canoe sprint athletes in the talent pathway will aspire to train at.
"The success of this project is testament to the strong working relationship between UK Sport, Sport England and British Canoeing."
The facility will be known as the Tim Brabants Elite Training Centre, in recognition of Britain’s most successful canoe sprint athlete of all time and the sport’s first ever Olympic gold medallist in 2008. Tim, who retired from the sport after London 2012, is set to visit the centre later this spring on his return from working as a doctor in South Africa.
Prior to the London 2012 Olympic Games, British Canoeing’s main on-water training venue for the squads had been at Eton Dorney, which also served as the competition venue for the Games. Whilst water conditions were ideal for training, it lacked a suitable, quality indoor facility, with an old portacabin serving as a changing and meeting area, which fell well below the standard required to support elite athletes on a world-class programme.
The new facility will vastly improve the daily training environment for the paddlers who are preparing for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Tokyo 2020 and beyond.
Minister for Sport Helen Grant said: "It's a great honour to have opened the Tim Brabants Elite Training Centre that will be home for our top canoeists as they prepare for the Rio 2016 Games. It's vital that we leave no-stone unturned to give our athletes the best chances of success in Brazil and this world-class facility will help them be on top of their game when they reach the start line. With investment from Sport England, working alongside UK Sport, this facility will also leave a great legacy for canoeing in this country."
Olympic gold medallist Ed McKeever said: "The whole focus of our training is on making those improvements which will give us even the smallest of performance gains come the Olympic Games. This new training centre here at Dorney makes a significant improvement to the facilities we use on a daily basis and will enhance the quality of training we can do as well as the overall experience."
The elite training centre includes:
- Male and female changing and showers
- Disability changing and showers
- Warm-up area
- Athlete rest and refuelling / recovery area
- Coach feedback area
- Coach work area
- Kitchen facility
- Medical treatment room
- Meeting room
John Anderson MBE, Performance Director of British Canoeing, added: "In line with our philosophy of continuous improvement, creating a high quality training environment at Dorney has been a priority for several years now.
"This excellent new facility retains close proximity to the English Institute of Sport support function at Bisham Abbey and still enables us to make use of the world-class water provision at Dorney Lake. What we have created here will have an immediate positive impact on training and will assist us greatly to deliver our best performances in Rio.
"I would like to thank Sport England, UK Sport, Eton College and Serco for their commitment to helping us fund and deliver this new centre."