GALASHIELS canoeist Alice Haining has been riding the crest of a wave this week after returning from the World Junior (Under-23) Championships in America with a gold medal.
The 18-year-old Scottish Champion punched well above her weight in the competition which was held at Wausau in Wisconsin, where she travelled with members of her family in support. Leaving the rain-soaked Borders behind caused no concern for the local teenager – who is also top of her class in the hill running scene – but the unaccustomed warm temperatures threw up challenges of their own.
Haining told TheSouthern: “It was a fantastic place to go. Everyone was so welcoming, showing us around and making it very easy to cope with the different setting. It was 41 degrees Celsius the first day we were in Wausau and the coldest midday temperature was around 32, so it was very hot and humid some days. Training and keeping hydrated was certainly challenging.”
Despite the heat, however, Haining grabbed the opportunity with both hands and qualified for the final run in the individual section in eighth place.
A powerful run in the last session, without any fault penalties, then saw her sail close to the medals, only 0.07 seconds behind fellow GB team member Kimberley Woods in fourth place, and ultimately take fifth position.
“For my first international in the GB team, it was a great experience competing against the world’s best young paddlers from 27 countries,” she added.
“It was a good course, a bit tricky in some spots, but very much like a natural river which is what I train on most of the time.
“We had training slots once a day leading up to the event and my coach, Neil Caffrey, was pretty happy with my paddling.”
Australian paddler Jessica Fox took the individual Junior World Champion title with Karolina Garuskova (Czech Republic) in second and Victoria Wolffhardt in third.
In the team event, the GB girls, Haining, Mallory Franklin and Kimberley Woods, pulled together and won by eight seconds, with the German team in second and the Czechs in third.
Haining commented: “All I wanted to do was make the finals, so to come home as fifth junior in the world and with a gold medal in the team event, was amazing.”
Next on the agenda for the Galashiels all-rounder is a trip up north where she will be combining a holiday along with some training on her favourite courses, before travelling to Solkan, in Slovenia, for the ICF Junior Canoe Slalom European Championships from September 6-9.
“I just can’t wait to compete for Great Britain again,” she added.
Alice is constantly trying to raise money for her travel to the various competitions, two of her more recent efforts being a ‘Guess the weight of the boat’ stand at Asda in Galashiels.
“It is not a very popular sport so a few clues were given out,” she conceded.
She also raised £163 by packing bags at the same supermarket.