The snow-covered banks of the River Trent in Staffordshire are a long way away from the bright lights of last summer’s Olympic Games. But that is where slalom canoer Lizzie Neave finds herself on her path towards Rio in 2016.
Despite being given a few days off by her coaches at Lea Valley, she has taken to the waters of the Stafford and Stone Canoe Club, where she began paddling aged eight.
With her dad, and former coach Andy, watching on, the twenty-five year old trains for an hour on a morning when many would wisely chose to stay warm and dry inside.
As Lizzie explains about the pressures that she faces in trying to secure her lottery funding, it becomes clear that this is the level of dedication that is needed if she is to make it to Brazil.
“If you want to do well then you’re pretty much training full time which means you haven’t got time to work,” she said.
Like most athletes Lizzie is reliant on lottery funding to live and train. But with money tight, it has never been as competitive to secure the funding that will allow her to continue to focus solely on canoeing.
“Currently I get just enough to live off, which I guess I’m happy with, because I can afford to train and keep doing what I love doing. It would be nice to get a bit better money, but I can’t complain, ” She said.
The amount of funding that Lizzie gets is determined by her results in the previous years key races. Which adds further pressure to the already enormous levels of stress that come with competing in World and European championships.
“There’s definitely pressure because the key races each year you have to perform and there are only two chances each year to make the funding criteria, so if you blow your first race then it’s all on that second race. So it’s quite high pressure to get funding,” she said.
The issue of athletes funding has made headlines recently with a number of sports that performed poorly in London having their funding cut. But fortunately for Lizzie and GB Canoeing they exceeded their targets. Resulting in a £2.9m boost to their funding ahead of Rio.
Canoe Performance Director, John Anderson, MBE, praised all the Olympic squad for their impressive performances, that will benefit not just those that competed, but all involved within the sport.
Despite the overall success of London, there was personal disappointment for Lizzie, as she narrowly missed out on a place in the Women’s K1 Final, just minutes before her teammates secured a GB one-two in the Men’s C2 competition.
Now with a point to prove she is training as hard as ever ahead of the GB squad selection in April. Hoping that a good 2013 will help to propel her towards a second Olympics.
And as the ice forms on her paddle and boat from the freezing conditions, the hard work and sacrifices required are not something that Lizzie would change.
“It’s a good lifestyle, its hard work with all the training, but you get to travel a lot, see the world, meet lots of new people and make new friends,”
“Ultimately I’m doing what I love doing all day every day, and being funded to do it. Not many people can say that I guess,” said Lizzie.
Key dates and competitions for Lizzie this year
April – GB Squad Selection
June 6-9 – European Canoe Slalom Championships – Krakow*
June 21-23 – ICF Canoe World Cup Round 1 – Cardiff
June 28-30 – ICF Canoe World Cup Round 2 – Augsburg
July 5-7 – ICF Canoe World Cup Round 3 – La Seu D’Urgell
Aug 16-18 – ICF Canoe World Cup Round 4 – Ljubljana -Tacen
Aug 23-25 – ICF Canoe World Cup Final – Bratislava
Sep 11-15 – ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships – Prague*
*Lottery Funding Events