Team GB Exclusive: No doubts for Florence as he sets sights on Tokyo
Canoe Slalom

Team GB Exclusive: No doubts for Florence as he sets sights on Tokyo

24 May 2017 / 20:28

Three Olympic silver medals would be job done for most people. But David Florence isn’t most people. 

For him, it’s a case of unfinished business, and gold at Tokyo 2020 is in his sights - but it all could have been a very different story.

Long before picking up his canoe slalom medal at Beijing 2008, Florence had always thought that would be his sporting days done and dusted. 

Perhaps it would be time for a 'proper' career, even submitting an application to become an astronaut - eventually losing out to a certain Tim Peake.

But the Olympic bug had got him and canoeing became that career, going on to add two medals to his haul in London and Rio alongside the now-retired Richard Hounslow, as well as three world titles across both C1 and C2 disciplines.
GettyImages-82271761And now he has committed to Olympic cycle number four, but while he insists that's not because of his missing gold, there's no denying it would be the icing on the cake.

"It actually crossed my mind to call it a day after Beijing, but then I seem to have got pretty old and I'm still doing it," he said.

"I was a slightly late starter in the sport, a long way off the other guys my age, and I just wanted to be good enough to go to the Olympic Games.

"I wanted to do canoeing for a few years, get good at it and try and win a medal at the Olympics, and if I did that, then I'd move on.

"I was still relatively young and still had a chance to do another career, and I guess that was what I thought I would always do.

"But London was on the horizon and that posed some exciting new challenges, so I never really gave it serious consideration once the Beijing Games were over.

"I haven't decided to carry on just because I don't have the gold medal. Had I won gold in Rio, I don't think that would have changed anything.

"I still feel I can improve in the sport, I'm still up there as one of the best in the world, and I just really enjoy it."
GettyImages-149713676Should he make the cut for Tokyo in three years' time, Florence will spend his 38th birthday Japanese-style.

Two years short of 40 may sound somewhat old for an elite athlete and, say it quietly, a potential Olympic champion, but that's not a thought that has ever entered Florence's head - in fact, he feels stronger and fitter than ever before.

And that's something he hopes to put into practice at next month's European Championships in Tacen, Slovenia, where he hopes to right the wrongs of years gone by.

"If I didn't know I was the age I am, I wouldn't feel it," said Florence, who has never won an individual C1 medal at the Euros despite seven across other disciplines.

"I seem to have less injury trouble as I get older and I am more robust than I was when I was younger.

"I seem to be able to deal with a higher volume of training that the younger guys. 38 sounds pretty old for someone who is still a full-time athlete, but it doesn't bother me.

"I've not had a huge amount of success at European Championships in the past, relative to how I've done in other races.

"It's a really good course, I've won a World Cup there before, so if I can get it right on the day, then who knows what I could do.

"I think this year's will be my 17th Euros, so maybe it will be 17th time lucky.”
GettyImages-588548604Make it to Tokyo and it won't just be on the water that Florence is putting himself to the test, however.

Having learnt Mandarin for Beijing 2008, and Portuguese for Rio, the Japanese lessons are underway - but it's proving trickier than he'd have liked.

"I've made a little bit of a start on learning Japanese, although I can't say I've got too far," he said.

"I can't say it's hard to motivate myself, but I've no idea yet if I'll get to Tokyo, I might never go to Japan!

"I didn't really get going with Portuguese until I knew I was selected, but I'm looking forward to learning Japanese.

"Chinese was the hardest I've had to learn by far - Portuguese seemed very straightforward in comparison."

With language lessons underway and training back at its brutal best, the only thing Florence needs to ensure is the performances to match.

Time will tell if he will finally get his hands on that evasive gold medal, but it’s enjoyment that matters to Florence, should he be on the plane to Tokyo. Only then will it be job done.

By Katie Falkingham
Sportsbeat 2017

Join the Team GB Club today, check it out right here