The first year after an Olympic Games can be a bit of a struggle for some athletes, but Australian sprint canoeist Aly Bull is relishing every moment.
She’s just arrived in Europe with the Australian Sprint Canoe for the start of a European summer that will take in two World Cups, starting in Szeged, Hungary, this weekend, and a World Championships in the Czech Republic in August.
Burnett and her Sunshine Coast teammate and friend, Alyce Burnett, had a dream Olympic debut in Rio, making the A final of the K2 500. And now they are ready to take the next step.
“After last year in Rio I have been inspired and more determined to race better and faster,” Bull said from Europe this week.
“So after a little break I was at the point where I was really keen to get back training and I think that’s important.
“I did a lot of growing up in general last year, I couldn’t pin-point one thing in particular. But I have learned to do a lot more on my own and that I can push my body further than I thought.”
The Australian team have spent this weekend at their European base in Szolnok. There are lots of new faces, and a few old ones, like three-time Olympian and Beijing gold medallist, Ken Wallace.
21-year-old Bull will team up with Wallace this weekend in a new event, a mixed relay. It’s all part of the dream that Bull’s paddling career has become.
“It feels great to be back here in Europe,” she said.
“I’ve never been to the AC set up in Szolnok before, so it is great to be here and see the boy’s camp and their set up. Its awesome to be here as a whole team.
“The group has been great, everyone is putting in some hard work, but there is also some great off-water banter.”
The challenge for every Olympic athlete in the years after a Games is how do they get better. But for Bull and Burnett, that improvement will come with experience.
“We aren’t really doing anything different, just lots of gym and spending a fair bit of time in the K2 together,” she said.
“We have been working really hard together as a pair and are both really excited to have a race together again.”
The ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup 2 begins in Szeged on Friday.