The road to London with Jo Brigden-Jones

Posted on December 13, 2011 by

My 2011 season was filled with ups and downs but ended on a big high at the world championships in Hungary.

At the end of last year I was unsure how the year would pan out as I had to have shoulder surgery. In 2010, three days before the start of the world championships I injured my shoulder during my last training session. I tried to race but had to pull out of the competition, which was so disappointing. I was out of the boat for five months, did countless hours of rehab in the gym and had lots of training sessions on the spin bike. I only started doing training sessions in the kayak in February and had to squeeze a year’s worth of training into six months. But by the time this year’s world championships came around, I felt I was ready to race.

The worlds were held in Szeged, Hungary and was a very important regatta as the team had to qualify boats to be able to compete at the Olympics next year. Kayaking is one of Hungary’s national sports, so the competition drew crowds into the thousands. It was an incredible atmosphere as they had the music pumping right up until the last 30 seconds before each race. Then, as soon as the race got going the crowds went wild blowing horns, banging drums and cheering. It created a fun and exciting environment for the close and competitive racing between 93 countries.

My main focus of the regatta was the K4 (four person kayak) 500m Olympic event which included Rachel Lovell (QLD), Hannah Davis (SA) and Lyndsie Fogarty (QLD). We had to place in the top 10 to qualify the boat for the Olympics. The crew had only been together since early July so we were unsure of how we would perform against the other nations.

We worked and gelled well together over five weeks at our training camp in Varese, Italy and turned up confident of paddling well during the races. We had a good race in the heat and then raced the semi-final and finished third to make it through to the ‘A’ final, which ensured us of a top 10 finish. The four of us were so happy and relieved to make the final and secure four positions for Australia for next year.

The final was the next day and we went into it relaxed but hungry for a good result. In the final we placed fifth which we were thrilled about, as we were only just behind the dominant countries of Hungary, Germany, Belarus and Great Britain. It makes a big difference the more time you spend training together as a crew. We can see so much potential and many improvements that we can make before the Olympics as we were such a new crew, and our fifth place puts us in a good position to chase a medal. In 2007 the Australian crew placed sixth at world champs and then went on to win a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics. That crew contained Hannah and Lyndsie so it’s great to have that experience in the boat.

I also raced in the K2 200m with Hannah, however as we were focusing on the K4 it left limited training sessions for us to work together in the K2. The boat moved well in those three training sessions and we knew if we got it right in the race we would be competitive. It was a close race, the pace was on and we managed to win the bronze medal! It was so exciting to be standing on the dais in front of those crazy Hungarian fans. It was also special as it was the first world championship medal for both of us.

The final race of the week was the K1 4 x 200m relay which was lots of fun. Our team placed fifth, and it was a great way to finish off an amazing week!

After the world champs I went to Portugal to race at the Nelo Summer Challenge, a surf and ocean ski event that was loads of fun. I then went to London to compete at the Olympic test event held on the Eton Dorney course which is the venue for the kayaking and rowing events next year. It was great to get a feel for the area and to get used to the conditions paddling on the course. On the way home I stopped in Hong Kong and Macau for a short holiday with my dad and sister.

At the moment I am trying to find a job as a Registered Nurse. I completed my degree at the beginning of the year but haven’t had a chance to do any nursing work as I was away so much. I will have a few weeks off training but will be doing a bit of surf ski paddling for fun and to keep a bit of fitness up.

I am really looking forward to this season and getting stuck into some hard training without having to worry about my shoulder, however I still need to qualify myself on to the Olympic team, with selections in March.

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