The generation paddling towards the 2020 Olympics

Children with Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott Gold medallists Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott met the children at the National Water Sports Centre

"You've got to learn how to lose," said Olympic canoe slalom gold medallist Etienne Stott. "If you don't, you won't learn how to win."

Stott was talking to an elite group of canoe slalom juniors during a surprise visit to the National Water Sports Centre, in Nottinghamshire, where he and his partner Tim Baillie started out themselves.

"It's lovely meeting kids, seeing how excited they are, enjoying the sport that we enjoy," said the kayaker. "They've got such potential, they've got such a lot to learn and they're just starting out on their journey."

With the London 2012 Olympics now over, coaches at the centre have been getting in early to try to mould the next generation of medallists ready for the 2020 games.

The BBC's Neil Heath went to meet the youngsters, and their coach Richard Ramsdale, as they went through their training routine.

The future canoe slalom Olympians?

Haider paddling through white water

Haider, 12, from West Bridgford, said: "I enjoy it loads. It's just such fun getting flipped. I love the adventure of exploring the water and seeing what it does to you, like surfing. I especially like the competitive atmosphere. I want to be in the 2020 Olympics, that is my ultimate dream. It was amazing what the 2012 Olympics was like and it's definitely carrying on the legacy and will inspire a lot of people. It was so brilliant watching [Etienne Stott and Tim Baillie]. Everybody in my house was standing and jumping up and down."

Coach Richard Ramsdale said: "Haider is part of Canoe England and GB Canoeing's first systematic effort of running a talent ID programme. He is very determined and works very hard. He always gives 100%, and is very thoughtful and analytical."

Zak going down a canoe slalom course

Zak, 11, from Long Eaton, said: "I've been practising catching curls. Basically there's a curl and you have to angle your boat the same way the [wave's] curl is and it will push you over to where you need to be. I'd say it on a scale of one to ten it's a seven [in terms of difficulty]. It took two or three attempts to get the hang of it. You have to be really strong."

Coach Richard Ramsdale said: "Zak was picked up through a community sports coach link that I run between Holme Pierrepont Canoe Club and schools and leisure centres in the local area. He has lots of natural flair and ability. He is very confident."

Jess hitting white water on a canoe slalom course

Jess, 11, from Long Eaton, said: "[I've been learning] staggered [moves], which is where you go in between a few gates like an s. Also been practising ferry gliding, where you go across the fast water. I enjoy it a lot. We started doing it in the swimming pool and it progressed from there. I'll probably keep it as a hobby. I'll have to think about the Olympics!"

Coach Richard Ramsdale said: "Jess was also spotted through the clubs I work with. She began paddling at Bramcote Leisure Centre. She has lots of natural ability and a very solid core. Jess has a very mature head on young shoulders."

Finn paddling down a canoe slalom course

Finn, 11, from Long Eaton, said: "We practised paddling down the course. We were working on [going through] up-gates and and also getting tight into gates. It depends on what you're doing [as to how hard it is]. If you're doing an up-gate straight off the white water then it's going to be quite hard. I've been doing it quite a while now [two years]. I'm going to see how it goes and just carry on."

Coach Richard Ramsdale said: "Finn also started at Bramcote Leisure Centre, he enjoyed his first taster session and then came back for more! He is a bit of a joker and a character. Finn is also very much a thinker."

Daniel going down a canoe slalom course

Daniel, 12, from West Bridgford, said: "It's a bit scary sometimes but as you do it it gets less scarier, you get used to it. If you make a mistake [Richard] will tell you what to do to make it right again. I've been practising using the water to go through gates. I do two sports, gymnastics and canoeing. I really like them both, I don't know whether I could do just one. Time will tell."

Coach Richard Ramsdale said: "Daniel, along with Haider, Louis, Jacob, was picked from over 440 pupils screened at Rushcliffe School, in West Bridgford. Daniel also competes to a very high level in gymnastics, he has lots of natural power and strength. He can do 35 chin-ups in a row!"

Jacob paddling down a canoe slalom course

Jacob, 13, from Edwalton, said: "It was a really fun session. A lot of falling in but that's half the fun. It's hard work but you don't know it is because it's so much fun. I want to keep going at it. I can't believe I have met [Etienne Stott and Tim Baillie]. It was amazing watching them. Me and and my mum were jumping up screaming [at the television]."

Coach Richard Ramsdale said: "Jacob is also from the talent ID programme. He, like the others, completes around eight canoe slalom sessions a week. Jacob is a very natural paddler, he has a good feel for the boat and has loads of natural ability."

Louis going down a canoe slalom course

Louis, 12, from Ruddington, said: "It's great trying new stuff. It's fun. I used to be scared [of going underwater] but I felt better after having more practice on the course."

Coach Richard Ramsdale said: "Louis, also part of the talent ID programme, has an unbelievable amount of energy. He is constantly wanting to do something and try something out. He always has a smile on his face!"

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