Enduring partnership sets Rio-bound Heath and Schofield apart
Canoe Sprint

Enduring partnership sets Rio-bound Heath and Schofield apart

15 June 2016 / 16:47

If familiarity breeds contempt, then sprint canoeists Liam Heath and Jon Schofield are making sure to buck the trend.

Over six years together as a competitive partnership, but never apart for more than three weeks in that time, you’d forgive a few grievances from both sides.

Indeed stress can do funny things to people – take heading into a home Olympic Games as the reigning European Champions and World silver medallists before initially finding the going tough in the heats and semi-finals on the way to the final.

The Brits are made of stern stuff however and they duly delivered when it mattered to clinch bronze in front of their friends and family.

Another four years of hard work and dedication later and Heath and Schofield are ready to immerse themselves in the Olympic  bubble again– this time at the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas in Copacabana.

And while many of their rivals may have come and gone since the Brits first teamed up in 2010, Heath believes their tried and tested partnership can stand them in good stead in Brazil.

“We get on really well, we both read each other well and we spend a lot of time in each other’s pockets on camps, training and competitions,” he said.

“We haven’t actually been apart for more than three weeks in those six years, and we both know when each other needs space and things like that.

“It’s vital, it can be a stressful environment, going through training cycles you can get fatigued or run down, so to have that relationship knows that will happen and things may rub up the wrong way, you know that you can come in tomorrow and everything will be fine.

“We first got together paddling in 2009, trained over the winter, hit it off straight away in the boat.

“That’s something you look for and is pretty unique, where you’re able to move the boat together as a crew right off.

“We knew then it was something to nurture. Jonny is at the back doing the dynamics which, coming from that background, makes sense and we can add a lot together.”

Had it not been for an intervention by one of Heath’s friends, then the Olympic bronze-medal winning double act may well never have formed.

First introduced to kayaking as part of an organised ‘holiday fun’ activity at Wey Kayak Club aged ten, Guildford-born Heath was actually close to drifting away from the sport – before a bit of encouragement set him back on track.

SchofieldHeath

“After graduating from Loughborough in 2006 I spent 18 months twiddling my thumbs,” explained Heath.

“One of my friends dragged me back into the boat and he realised the potential that was there, sent me a programme and got back paddling.

“In 2009, 200m became an Olympic event and from that I never looked back. I’d hung up my paddle by then, so without that intervention I was probably not going to come back, so that motivation to come back has been huge in my achievements.”

For Heath, Rio will also represent a two-pronged attack after he was announced in the team this week for both the K2 200m and the individual K1 200m.

The latter will see him trying to continue a run of British success after Ed McKeever picked up gold at London 2012 – but it is a responsibility which he is relishing.

“It’s going to be great, I’m really looking forward to seeing what I can do and hopefully following in the footsteps of Ed (McKeever) and the way the week is set up allows me to focus on the K2 and then step back into K1,” he added.

“I’ve already surprised myself at the K1 in the World Cups, there’s no reason why I can’t do that again, it’s always been an additional event following the K2, but the prospect of surprising even me is an exciting one in itself.

“Every athlete is aspiring for the Olympics, it will be hard to top London but getting another go at Rio is incredible.

“I just need to be ready and in peak fitness for racing and have my attention completely on that.” 

Sportsbeat 2016 

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