Tim Baillie is confident that canoe slalom partner Etienne Stott will return from injury stronger than ever – but admits when he does they’ll face the difficult decision of whether to continue competing at all.
Baillie and Stott won Britain’s first ever canoe slalom gold medal at the London 2012 Olympics last summer with victory in the C2 before deciding to tackle one more season before considering retirement.
However their campaign was cut short when Stott suffered a dislocated shoulder for the second time in his career – and it is unlikely the duo will paddle together again before January.
And Baillie insists, despite a slow start to the season, they began to show their golden performance at London 2012 was no fluke before Stott’s injury and insists they are still hungry for success.
“With half of this season being robbed from us we want to have another crack at it,” he said. “The first race of the year was a real disappointment.
“We had a shocker in Krakow and it seemed like we might be looking down the barrel of a very long season of not living up to the expectations of Olympic champions.
“I almost decided I wanted to retire but the next races were really good and it would have been good to see what we could have done this season.
“The next World Cup event in Cardiff was awesome, we won qualifying, and then we were fourth in the final. Then in Germany we came second, and were leading the overall World Cup rankings.
“It was the event after that Etienne’s shoulder was dislocated. I’m grateful that we got to do those races before because it proved that our Olympic success was not a total one-off.
“Etienne’s injury is pretty serious and he’s got quite a long road back. But we’re reasonably confident he should be able to come back.”
Baillie has ruled out committing to another three years and defending their Olympic title in Rio and admitted the pair could finish their competitive careers before the new year.
But Baillie also believes there is more to come from himself and Stott and retirement is not a decision that they will take lightly.
“It’s quite a funny time for myself and Etienne. We hadn’t fully decided if we were going to keep racing before his injury,” he added.
“Doing this as a full-time job is a real privilege but it’s quite a commitment. We have some ambitions that are difficult to realise when you’re paddling.
“We’re just taking it season by season. We’re not really in a place mentally where we can commit to another three years.
“We have had a series of major injuries but we have come back to a really high level. Next year if we race we will be confident we can be competitive. It doesn’t mean we will win medals but we could be in with a shout.
“Nothing will live up to winning gold at a home Olympics. But in terms of goals for next year we will want to make finals and race for medals.
“And another reason for keeping paddling is because it’s good for the crews who are trying to chase us down and we’ve seen a lot of young crews coming through that have benefitted from that.”
© Sportsbeat 2013