Forbes-Cryans moving on from selection debate to plot his own path to Tokyo

·4 min read
Pic: Reuters
Pic: Reuters

Bradley Forbes-Cryans is certainly battle hardened as he looks towards his belated Olympic debut in Tokyo next year.

The 25-year-old narrowly saw off team-mate Joe Clarke, the defending champion from Rio, to earn his place as Team GB’s K1 canoe slalom paddler.

And then, when news came through of the Olympics postponement, Clarke mounted a campaign to get the selection process reopened.

In the end Team GB confirmed Midlothian’s Forbes-Cryans would hold his slot, meaning more than 650 days will have passed between call-up and debut.

“Talking to Joe has been difficult, emotions run high and there was a lot of noise about my selection," said Forbes-Cryans, one of more than 1,100 athletes on the UK Sport World Class Programme, funded by The National Lottery.

“I hope we can move past this and he finds the motivation to push on with his career. I want to represent all of us, make the best of this opportunity, and do us all proud.

"One boat per nation means the hardest competition for British paddlers is just making the Games, in some regards making the team is harder than the competition you'll face in Tokyo."

At the end of February Forbes-Cryans’ father suffered a stroke and subsequently contracted Covid-19 in hospital.

He is now back home recovering but it was a deeply troubling start to what was meant to be a dream 2020.

“Through my dad, my eyes were opened pretty early on as to how significant the impact of the virus was going to be,” he added.

“I went to hospital to see him twice before the lockdown and that was it really, it had to be FaceTime after that.

“Hopefully now we’re going to see some sort of return to normality. For me my whole life is about sport and this was all set to be one of the biggest years of my life - for that to be put on hold was understandably difficult.

“I’d worked for 15 years to put myself in this position but I’ve tried to take the positives from it. I’m still a young athlete on the international circuit and so another 12 months of preparation time is so bad thing.

Forbes-Cryans admits he may have let his lockdown diet slip a little, though a special delivery from coaches at British Canoeing has put him back on track.

“My training early on was getting out every day for a 30-minute jog, then British Canoeing sorted out getting some weights to my home – a lot of weights," he adds.

“I’m as strong as I’ve ever been. Running was about making gains wherever possible, so my aerobic fitness has raised drastically, it’s at an all-time high and my gym numbers – they’re stronger than I’ve ever been in my life."

Forbes-Cryans was nine when he first watched canoe slalom at the Games and took it up a year later, joining the CR Cats Canoe Club in Alva.

Next year he'll be their fourth alumni to appear on the biggest stage, following double Olympian Fiona Pennie, Athens silver medallist Campbell Walsh and Craig Brown, who appeared at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.

The world has changed beyond recognition since Brown’s Olympic appearance, with 864 Olympic and Paralympic medals won since National Lottery funding was introduced 23 years ago.

“With my style of paddling I think I have a lot of feel for the water, so being off it until a few weeks ago hasn’t been a problem, then I started going over to a little flatwater site near home," Forbes-Cryans added.

“It’s got some really good gates there and there’s been quite a few youngsters on the water.

“It’s been quite nice to spend some time with them because they know who I am and they’re like, ‘Oh my god, what are you doing here?!’.

“But for me now it’s just trying to make the most of the situation and chase that dream again. What's another 12 months anyway? I can’t wait to be sitting on that start line at Tokyo 2020."

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