Early season joy for Gibson as Edinburgh canoeist secures Team GB spot20 April 2017
University of Edinburgh international canoe slalom athlete, Eilidh Gibson, enjoyed a fantastic start to the season after a fine performance at British Canoeing’s selection trials saw her secure a place in the 2017 Great Britain Senior Team.
Following three days of intense competition, Gibson achieved the required overall top-3 finish and will now represent Team GB in the women’s C1 class at this year’s Senior World and European Championships, in France and Slovenia respectively, as well as the international World Cup series and u23 World Championships in Slovakia.
Commenting on her selection, Gibson said: “Coming into the weekend I was struggling with a bit of an injury so I'm very happy to get close to my plans on all my runs.
“I haven't allowed myself the chance to think about the summer too much as I've been taking things one step at a time but there's loads of really exciting races. Now I’ve just got to finish my exams and then I can look forward to the racing! It will be busy with senior and u23s, but I'm really excited for it.”
As well as determining the team for the season, the trials, held at Lee Valley Whitewater Centre, also represented the beginning of a new Olympic cycle which Gibson dreams will lead her to the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Having been introduced to the sport at a young age by her parents (her mum competed for GB and her dad for Scotland), Gibson, from Kinnesswood in Perthshire, competes in the single bladed women’s C1 class which will be included in a Games for the first time as the sport achieves gender equality.
Whilst other nations are switching on to the fact that C1W is now an Olympic discipline, Great Britain is already well ahead of the game with at least three females competitors making the podium regularly in world cup events.
“My ultimate dream is to be the one person from Britain that gets to go to the Olympics in C1 women’s debut year and win gold,” said Gibson, who makes regular trips to Lee Valley to train in the same group as three times Olympic silver medallist, David Florence.
“You can see the numbers of C1 women are expanding exponentially because countries are giving these girls funding and support.
“It will be pretty hard because Britain is the strongest in the world in C1W but it’s really exciting to be in an ambitious group of girls that are coming through here and this is our chance.”
There are other young Scottish C1 paddlers following behind Gibson with Forth Valley Forth student, Sophie Ogilvie, and Rachel Houston, from the University of Strathclyde, also enjoying relative success at the British Canoeing trials and securing places in the wider GB squad for certain events.
Gibson, Houston and Ogilvie are three of 150 students supported by Winning Students, Scotland’s national sports scholarships programme for student athletes.
Through the programme they receive funding support and the academic flexibility required to perform at the highest level in sport and studies.
Eighteen Scottish universities and 25 colleges form the Winning Students network. Students at network colleges and universities benefit from a dedicated co-ordinator to ensure they can balance their studies and sport effectively.
Getting the student-athlete life clearly works for Gibson who also finds time to be a part of sportscotland’s Young Person Sports Panel.
“During term time it’s absolutely chaotic and sometimes it feels more like survival,” admits Gibson, who hopes to complete her BSc Biological Sciences degree next summer.
“It can be hard and it’s not ideal for my training that I’m in Edinburgh but I love coming back up here (Grandtully) and going to university where it’s not all about canoeing and it’s something totally different.
“It challenges me in that different area and hopefully we are making a positive impact as part of the sport panel where I’m in a group that is working to increase opportunities for young girls in sport.
“So to be in a sport that’s now gender equal and is giving more opportunities to girls is really cool.”
Whilst the plan is to head south to be full time at British Canoeing’s slalom base in Lee Valley after graduating next summer, Gibson is not envisaging a life without study.
“My brain really needs that education stimulus and I love what I’m learning at university,” she added.
“I’m already looking at Masters I can do in London but obviously not full time because canoeing will be my priority down there.”