Britain’s Olympic Greats – Helen Reeves

Labour Party

Helen Reeves is the only British woman to have won a medal in canoeing at the Olympics since the event was introduced.  Helen competed in the kayak slalom event (K-1).

A canoeist since the age of ten, Helen was a World Junior Championship gold medal winner in 1996 but her competitive career was blighted by a succession of shoulder injuries and she was forced to watch the Sydney Olympics in 2000 from a hospital bed awaiting an operation. She won bronze medals in the K-1 team event at both the 2002 and 2003 World Championships and was placed in the top 10 of the individual K-1 on both occasions as well.

But her biggest success came at the 2004 Athens Olympics.  Helen received the medal in a very unusual manner. She had originally been placed fourth on aggregate times but, whilst she was being interviewed by a television crew about her disappointment at missing a medal, several members of the crowd shouted at her to look at the scoreboard. The official results had been changed and an extra penalty had been judged against Peggy Dickens. This was enough to lift Helen into third by a fraction of a point.

Sadly for Helen the injuries that have blighted her career returned after the victory in Athens and she has now retired from competitive kayaking.  She still has a great passion for the sport though, working as a commentator during the 2008 Beijing Olympics and as a press office for GB Canoeing.  She will be present again to support on the new generation of kayakers this summer inLondon.

Britain’s Olympic Hopefuls – Fiona Pennie

Labour Party

The woman Olympian continuing the series this week is Fiona Pennie. Fiona will be competing in her second Olympics this summer as a British slalom kayaker. She is by far the most experienced woman on the British canoeing team and has a good chance of bringing home a medal this summer.

Fiona got the taste for kayaking from her mother, an international flatwater sprint paddler, when she was very young.  Fiona was taken on her first boat when she was just a few months old and began learning on flatwater when she was five, competing for the first time aged eight. She was encouraged to try out slalom racing by her instructor and became hooked immediately.

After that Fiona won a bronze medal at the Junior World Championships in 2000 and won the overall Junior World Cup Series in the same year. As an Under 23 athlete, she won a team bronze medal in 2004 and an individual bronze medal in 2005, both at the European Under 23 Championships.

Fiona then moved on to adult competitions and enjoyed even more success.  She won two medals at the ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships with a silver (K-1: 2006) and a bronze (K-1 team: 2007). She also won three bronze medals at the European Championships.

Unfortunately for Fiona, she failed to get past the qualifying rounds when she went to Beijing in 2008, but I’m sure that this will inspire her to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again in London.