1- Canoeing is quite an extreme sport, when and why did you decide to take it up?
The type of canoeing I do could be described as extreme but this wasn't what appealed to me in the beginning. When I was about twelve, my brother Jamie had started to do downriver racing and was on the national junior team. I 'd sometimes go to watch him and one of his coaches would always try and persuade me to try. I was totaly against the idea at first, I had done some canoeing before and was so scared of the white water. Then I started to think about it and my friend remembers saying to me "don't start canoeing! We wont be able to go shopping every weekend!" Anyway, eventually I decided to have a go, and its funny because the guys I'm on the team with now rememeber my first steps. They would be doing the length of a river and I would do the flat bits in between the rapids!
2-Do you have to fund the sport yourself? Or do you get help with sponsorship?
Right now I am looking for sponsorship. Our spor doesn't have a lot of money so can't afford to support it's athletes financially. Just recently For Goodness Shakes recovery drinks agreed to sponsor me, which is great because at the moment I'm taking loads of care with my nutrition and their drinks are only made from natural ingredients. Also I'm sponsored by LifePlan nutritional products, another all natural company! This year I was lucky enough to recieve some funding from SportsAid and my local council. In the past I have benefitted from the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme and hopefully this can start again when I go to university. In order to be able to train full time this year I worked a lot last summer. I worked in a factory and I was an Au Pair for a while in Italy.
3-How are the women and young girls treated in your sport compared the boys and men?
I think that at grass roots level canoeing is a very equal sport. If you give a lot, you tend to get a lot back, no matter which sex you are. If the boys start to overtake the girls it's usually because they have more self confidence. Internationally, it's plain to see that,like most sports, the men's is considered the main event. But I think that to change this, the girl's should ignore it and make sure they keep improving. A man's body is able to reach higher levels phsically but there's no reason a woman can't be better technically. I want to reach the top of my sport, but then help to push it so the women's event faster and more exciting the ever before!
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4-What are your biggest achievements in Canoeing?
I was really happy when I won the bronze medal at the Europeans last year because for me, and maybe a few others, it was totally unexpected!
I was hoping to start winning medals in a few years time!
Also this winter I have done well in a couple of big canoe marathon races, which for me is an achivement, as it proves I'm not only capable of the shorter distances.
5-Are there any aspects of your sport that you would like to see changed or altered?
We have a lot of problems in Britain with river access. I'd like to see that changed. It seems crazy to me that a river can be owned by someone! It means we cant use, or have to pay to use, the great rivers we have! Then also I'd like to see more canoe clubs, with better facilities to make them more appealing! My canoe club is literally a big shed full of old boats and a mobile for getting changed in, I can see why there aren't more people starting there. But this is improving already, Ive seen a lot of new clubs and centres in the UK that are really cool!
6-Do you receive lots of help and support from friends and family?
Yes, theyre all really good! My team has always been great in that respect too, even though it changes every year we all tend to get on really well. There is never a bad or rivalous atmosphere, we want each other to do well as much as ourselves. When we go away on a training camp or to race, it's just like to be with your friends.
7-What are your thoughts and hopes for 2008?
This year I will do my second senior world championships.
Last time, in 2006, I came 11th in the sprint
(we race two distances - sprint and classic).
This time round I am aiming to win a medal in sprint and be in the top five in classic and the course we will race is the hardest white water I have ever done! Last year, we did a world cup race there and I capsized, so its a huge challenge for me!!
8-Can you name a few aspects of Canoeing that would entice other people to want to take part?
Well I can say what I love about it so much! There is nothing like the feeling of being on a beautiful river in the sunshine with your friends, you see so much! I have the chance to go to some really special places all over the world with the coolest, most interesting people, being a canoeist. There are so many different types of canoeing, really something for everyone. From a peaceful paddle on the flat water in an open boat, to huge waves and waterfalls in a little plastic boat and everything in between! Its just another way to actually go outside and do something!
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9-Jessica, what 2 things would you say to young budding canoeists out there, if they are looking to get into the sport? ( where would they go and who would they contact)
First, find your nearest canoe club or outdoor pursuits centre on the internet with a search engine or look on the website www.bcu.org.uk which lists all of them. If the club or centre has it's own website, they'll usually advertise taster days or club sessions that invite beginners to turn up. Often it's free to try. Otherwise you can find a contact for any canoe club on the bcu site, someone who you can call or email and ask when and where you can have a go! Also on that website there's links to all the individual disipline's websites which are all really interesting with loads of news and photo's etc, so if you want to see more of what its all about, thats your place! My type of canoeing Wild Water Racing has it's own website www.wildwater.org.uk. Lastly, I reckon its so good to start at this time of year, with the sunshine!
- 2nd International Ardeche Marathon, France Nov 2007 (Women K1)
- 1st International Terridiforte Marathon, Verona Oct 2007 (Women downriver)
- National Champion 2007 (Classic)
- Bronze medal at Senior European Championships 2007(Sprint)
- 7th in Senior World Cup 2007 (Sprint & Classic combined)
- 7th in Senior European Championships 2007 (Classic)
- 5th in World Cup event Karlovy Vary 2007 (Sprint)
- National Champion 2003-2006 (Sprint)
- Bronze medal at Junior European Championships 2006 (Classic)
- 11th in Senior World Championships 2006 (Sprint)
- Bronze medal at Junior European Championships 2005 (Team)
Aims for 2008
- Medals in sprint and team, Top 5 in classic at Senior World Championships, Ivrea, Italy.
- Medals in sprint, team and classic at Senior Pre-Europeans, River Adda, Italy.
- Top 5 World Cup (In Czech Republic, Spain and Switzerland)
- National Champion (Sprint and Classic)
Jessica has been downriver racing since 2002. She progressed successfully through the junior ranks and is now one of the top women internationally, this year taking a European bronze medal in her first year as a senior. She is currently taking a break from her studies to train for the international season of 2008 in the Italian mountain town Valstagna, which has a busy river sport scene and is famous for producing champions in the sports of Downriver and Slalom.