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UEL canoeists plotting a course to World Championships

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Two UEL athletes set to compete at GB trials 

Two slalom canoeists from the University of East London (UEL) will put their friendship to one side when they compete against each other at the Great Britain Canoe Slalom Selection event at Lee Valley White Water Centre this weekend (April 15-16).

Christopher Bowers (left) and Zachary Allin (right), both of whom race in the individual kayak (K1) class, will be vying for a place in both the under-23 and senior GB teams for the Canoe Slalom World Championships in Pau, France, in September.

The pair juggle their UEL studies with training six days a week on the Lee Valley white-water course as part of the UK Sport Podium Potential Programme – and will be hoping to make the most of their course knowledge.

Christopher, 18, an Accounting and Finance undergraduate, said being able to train on the course that was purpose built for the London 2012 Olympics had brought huge improvements to his canoeing.

“My preparations have been really good for GB selection,” he said. “After the past six months at Lee Valley, my confidence and consistency have shot through the roof and my mental ability to be able to sit on the start line and put that run down has definitely improved.”

Realistically, both canoeists are aiming to make the under-23 team, with qualification to the senior squad a bonus. But even making the age-group squad is far from a formality.

Zachary, 19, said, “It’s going to be really tight racing, with only a second in it that decides who goes to the championships and who doesn’t, so it’s all down to the day. Hopefully, I’ll make the team.”

Both men began canoeing thanks to a family connection. Christopher took up the sport to emulate his older brother while Zachary followed in his parents’ footsteps.

Zachary, who studies Sports Coaching at UEL, said his ultimate dream was to compete for Team GB at an Olympic Games. “As with everyone, the aim is the Olympics and to try and follow in the footsteps of previous British Olympians,” he said. “Tokyo 2020 and the Olympics in 2024 are what I’ve set my sights on.”

Christopher managed to get the upper hand on his team-mate when they competed for UEL at the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Nationals in February, taking gold in the K1 division.  

And he had warm praise for UEL’s Sports Scholarship programme in helping him and Zachary to develop as athletes as well as students.

The programme offers elite athletes flexibility in their course studies to accommodate training and also provides expert support in areas such as strength and conditioning, physiotherapy, massage, psychology and nutrition.

“The support from all the UEL high-performance team has helped with confidence and given me the chance to balance uni with my training,” said Christopher.

“I couldn’t have done this without the scholarship programme. To be able to manage that package all in one is something that I didn’t think I could get from a university, anywhere but UEL have managed it.”

Matt Tansley, High Performance Sport Manager at UEL, explained how thrilled he is to have the two athletes on the Sports Scholarship programme.

“Canoe Slalom is a new sport for UEL and working alongside both staff and athletes form the sport has been a real highlight this year,” he said. “Both Chris and Zac are fantastic students and ambassadors for the sport. We are proud to working with British Canoeing and I hope we will be supporting more of their talented athletes in the future.”