Following qualification for the Olympic in 2019 Adam Burgess had to wait a long time to compete in his first Olympic Games. It was also a debut Olympics for Adam’s coach Craig Morris who works for British Canoeing but is a former international paddler and Stafford & Stone Canoe Club member. Craig would be a very busy coach at the Olympic as Adam’s training partners Kim Woods and Mallory Franklin had qualified respectable in Kayak Women and Canoe Women. Due to Covid restrictions the Athletes had a limited time training on the course but spent an extended training camp on the course in the build up to the games. The GB team athletes shared a hotel with fellow international canoeists in the training before moving to the Olympic village. Although there interactions were restricted with athletics only being able to visit the canoe slalom venue and the Olympic village. Adam was part of the lucky few to attend the open ceremony at Olympic stadium. It was great to see him waving and smiling (under his mask).
After the excitement of the opening ceremony it was down to business for Adam as he looked to qualify for finals day. Two impressive performances of 99.82 & 99.64 saw Adam qualify in 3rd place for the Semi-finals. Despite the time difference between Britain and Japan a number of club members were up early to watch Adam’s runs. Some members were at the clubhouse in Stone whilst a large number watched the race in a field at Bala Mill campsite as the race coincided with a club trip.
The clubhouse was once again full on Monday morning to watch Adam in the semi-final having qualified third fastest in the heats meant he started 3rd to last in the semi-final. The course designers had increased the challenge and set a very tricky gate sequence to test the athletes. Adam put down a composed performance but picked a touch towards the bottom of the course to qualify in 8th place for the final. In the final Adam once again rose to the challenge to take an early lead improving on a semi final time by half a second but crucially negotiating the course clean.
There was nothing more Adam could do but watch the remaining seven competitors come down the course and see if any of them could best his time. As he watched on world number 1 Sideris Tasiadis from Germany came down the course to go into the lead just 0.16 seconds ahead of Adam’s time. Then followed an impressive performance from former world champion Benjamin Savsek of Slovenia which would prove fast enough to take the Gold medal by over 3 seconds from 2nd place Lucas Rohan of Czech Republic. After all the racing Adam would finish in fourth place an agonising 0.16 of the bronze medal.
Giving his interview with the BBC after the race Adam was clearly disappointed with the result but happy with his focus and composure during his run. He then went on to show his class as role model for so many by paraphrase a quote from one of the best sports films of all time in Cool Runnings by saying “Coming home an Olympic finalist, but I was enough before, and I still am. Still Adam Burgess, still love a brew, still look a bit like an alpaca”. For Adam his Job was done, he had 48 hours before he would have to fly home to the UK to to enjoy a catch up with friends and family.
For Craig the job was only a third done he was back after the excitement of Adams final to support Kim Woods in her bid for Olympic success which ultimately finished with her in 10th place in the final on her debut Olympics. The third of Craigs athletes Mallory Franklin came into the Olympics ranked world number two with only the great Jess Fox a pioneer of the C1 women’s category and three-time Olympic medallist in the kayak ahead of her. Jess is the daughter of former club member Richard Fox five time world champion himself in the 80s and 90s.
Craig successfully supported Mallory through qualification, semis and final where she excelled and held lead until the penultimate boat which was Jess Fox. Fox put down an incredible time which would’ve ranked highly in the K-1 women’s category to take the gold medal. Resulting in Mallory taking home the silver medal. Well done to Craig, Adam and all the team GB athletes and support staff for their efforts in Tokyo.
Words by Pete Willett