Ros Lawrence in Augsburg
On the eve of this years demanding European canoe slalom season, Ros Lawrence fell ill.
For someone who has always demanded so much of her body, it was a bit of a wake-up call. And probably timely.
“I lost quite a few weeks of training, but I rarely take breaks and I think it was my body telling me to rest up for a bit,” Lawrence said.
“It wasn't ideal timing for a break, but I've managed to regain the fitness and strength I lost by training through the World Cups more than I would normally.”
Whether it was the frustration that comes with an elite athlete having an enforced layoff, or that she’d given her body and mind a much-needed refresher, when she did return it was with gusto.
In particular in the C1, where by her own high standards she’d had a pretty disappointing 2013.
“I had a very dissatisfying year in C1 last year, but I've made some big changes that are paying off,” she said.
“Now I switch between the left and right side when I'm paddling. It's like learning to write with the other hand and I haven't fully mastered it yet, but I am becoming much more confident.
“I’m happy that I’ve backed up my performances in C1 over the last three World Cups.”
Backed up indeed. After a 13th in her first World Cup outing of the year, her first race back after illness, 25-year-old Lawrence ran into a purple patch of form.
Fifth in Tacen, a win in Prague, a third in Spain and second in Germany gave Lawrence a fantastic lead-up for next month’s Slalom World Championships in Deep Creek.
While Lawrence will gladly take the strong C1 form, it’s the K1 where she’d really been hoping to make her mark this year.
Most of her training has been K1 focussed, even though in an ideal world she’d much rather just focus on the C1. Which would be fine, if she was happy to give up a chance to go to the Olympics.
“I would prefer to drop K1 and do only C1, but there's this little thing called Rio 2016 that I have in mind,” Lawrence said.
“I've been focusing on K1 more than C1 since 2012, when I finally realised that if I want to get anywhere in this sport (specifically the Olympics) I have to do it in K1.
“The funding in Australia, which I am very grateful for, is weighted towards K1, and to sustain my paddling for another four years I knew that I needed to make achievements in K1 that required a lot more time in my K1 boat.”
Lawrence didn’t make a K1 final on the World Cup circuit this year, but her best result came in the final event of the summer, a 13th in Augsburg, giving her confidence ahead of the World Championships.
There are only a handful of paddlers who contest both the C1 and K1, many preferring to conserve their energies for the Olympic event.
But Lawrence doesn’t believe the C1 is diminishing her performances in the K1. Rather she believes it works in her favour.
“The amount of C1 training I am doing at the moment is complimenting my K1 training,” Lawrence argues.
“It gives me a fresh perspective and keeps me on my toes! During the International races the program works really well for me, so I'm not too tired physically.
“If the program ever changes I might have to rethink whether I will keep doing both classes at all races, but I don't think I will ever stop completely.”
Deep Creek will be Ros Lawrence’s sixth World Championships. Last year in Prague was a definite stand-out for the former U23 World Champion.
She finished fifth in the C1, seventh in the K1, and was also part of Australia’s successful C1 team.
She’s not raced at Deep Creek, but by the time of next month’s World Championships she will have spent plenty of time training on the course.
She’s looking forward to taking on the best Europe has to offer, away from their power base.
“I'm looking forward to competing in Deep Creek, where there won't be a home-course advantage for the Europeans. It will level the playing field,” she said.
“I love the area and felt quite relaxed there during the training camp in July. I am confident I can make the top ten in C1, and hopefully better. I will do my best to take all the right steps and focus on the process, which usually makes the difference for me.”
What Lawrence doesn’t want is a diminished C1 final. She knows the canoeing world, and the IOC, are watching closely developments in the discipline, with an eye to introducing it in Tokyo in 2020.
What C1 doesn’t need is poor quality major races, and heading out of Europe for a World Championships carries that risk.
“I only hope that the regular racers will all have enough support to make it to the worlds,” Lawrence said.
“It's a necessary step forward for our sport to hold the worlds outside of Europe, but I'm worried the first class to suffer will be the C1W due to lack of funding.”
Whatever happens, you can guarantee Lawrence will continue to work hard to get the very best for her sport.
And now she’s had a little break, that should keep her busy for at least the next decade.