SALMON Leap canoe club’s Jenny Egan became the first Irish athlete to win a Senior European Sprint Championship canoe medal last weekend in Racice, Czech Republic.
Egan’s bronze medal came in the Senior Women’s K1 5,000m event, which features one long (2,000m) and four short (750m) laps.
“I got a good start, alongside the lead group”, Egan said.
“And at the top turn at 1,000m, myself and two other girls broke away from the rest of the field. We stayed away for the rest of the race, and it came down to a sprint finish for the medals between the three of us.”
Expectations were high going into the event for Egan. “I’ve been fifth in the European Sprint 5,000m Championships before, in 2013, and I’ve always aimed to get a medal.
“The thing with this event is it can be quite unpredictable. You might have a collision, causing the boat to spin.
“If that happens it messes up the rest of the race. So long as I had a clean race and got myself in a good position off the start line, I had high expectations.”
Egan’s third place finish at the championships follows previous Sprint World Cup medals won in Hungary in 2010 and on the same course in the Czech Republic in 2011, and makes her Ireland’s most successful sprint canoe athlete.
Racice must fast be becoming Egan’s favourite stop off.
“It helps to have had a good result in a specific location, though most sprint courses around the world are quite similar”, she explained. “Once we were away, I just had to keep things clean and focused. I could see we were pulling away from the group behind us, so it was about not making a tactical mistake or having a collision.”
The feeling was “immense” on crossing the finish line, Egan laughed.
“It’s what you train for two to three times a day, six days a week. The training paid off. My mum, dad and brother all travelled, so it was a great moment and a great chance to celebrate.”
The race was won by Maryna Litvunchuk of Belarus, with Italy’s Irene Burgo taking silver, both less than a second ahead of Egan. Irish paracanoeist Patrick O’Leary narrowly missed out on joining Jenny on the podium, finishing fourth by just a third of a second in his KL3 200m final.
Egan won’t be celebrating too hard, with bigger things still to come this year.
The season’s building towards the European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan in June, followed by the first of two qualifying events for the Rio Olympics in the senior sprint World Championships in Milan this coming August.