It is now eight years since her Olympic debut but canoe slalom star Fiona Pennie returns to sport’s top table in a few days’ time older, wiser and with high hopes of a first medal.
Pennie finished 17th in the K1 event at Beijing 2008 before missing out on selection for London 2012, but returned to form a year later with European gold in Krakow.
Three years on and with another European gold in her pocket – this time in the K1 team event – the 33-year-old is as prepared as she can be for her second Olympic Games, after spending a total of 75 days in Rio scouting the course.
And Pennie acknowledges that a lot has changed since she headed to Beijing for her Olympic debut as a 25-year-old.
“It’s been eight years since Beijing – I’ve grown up a lot, I’ve learned a lot, I missed out on selection for London, I didn’t make the World Championship team in 2009, so I’ve had the downs,” said the triple World silver medallist.
“But I learned from them, came back with good results in the years after, so I’ve gone through a lot of down in order to make the good moments really good, and I’m excited to see how it all comes together at the Games.
“A medal is definitely possible and that would be classed as success for me, but canoe slalom is a very variable sport in terms of what can happen.
“Anything can happen, but I think I suit the course quite well and I’ve been paddling pretty well out there.”
Pennie’s extended time in Rio has been part of British Canoeing’s trips to the Olympic site as their paddlers familiarise themselves with the brand-new Whitewater Stadium course.
The 250m course was built specially for Rio 2016 and although Pennie, originally from Crieff in Scotland but who now lives in Waltham Abbey, has not had a stellar 2016 so far, she is hopeful the time spent in Brazil will pay off.
“Now it’s about getting on with the job,” added the double European champion.
“The course is probably a little smaller than the one in London, but it is still really challenging in places, the bottom drop is quite substantial.
“Further up the course it is technically challenging so although it is not big, it is technically hard.
“We have spent so much time on it now hopefully we are best-prepared as we can be, for whatever course they set.”
By Phil Jones, Sportsbeat 2016