London 2012: British slalom canoeists strike Entente Cordiale with French rivals

Britain's top slalom canoeists have struck a deal with fierce rivals France in a bid to maximise both nations' training time ahead of the Olympics.

David Florence and Richard Hounslow have agreed to share training slots at their warm-weather camp in Australia exclusively with the French team.

GB and France now get quieter training sessions at other nations' expense.

"You could argue it's beneficial for France, but we hope it's beneficial for us as well - more so," said Hounslow.

TRAINING DOWN UNDER

Fabien Lefevre and Denis Gargaud
  • Hounslow and Florence are sharing time on the water with French rivals Lefevre and Gargaud (above)
  • Hounslow has returned to the Penrith slalom course for warm-weather training for the last eight years
  • This year, the British duo's warm-weather training in Australia will last for four weeks
  • They are the only slalom canoeists to have been sent to warm-weather training by GB Canoeing
  • A normal training day involves two sessions, one in the morning and one in the evening. Recreational paddlers and rafters use the course during the day

"It's so busy over here - this is their peak time, it's summer for them - so a lot of other teams come out here. We like to book some exclusive slots but you can't get enough, it's so busy.

"Buying an hour's water just for the two of us seems a bit ridiculous and a waste of the precious funding we have.

"It made sense for us to book two a week, the French to book two a week, then share them between us so we all get four high-quality sessions. Then we can focus much more."

Whereas up to 30 athletes are likely to use the water at any one time during open sessions at the venue, the Anglo-French agreement brings that number down to a more tranquil maximum of just 10.

Hounslow and Florence finished fourth in slalom canoeing's C2 discipline at last year's World Championships, two places behind silver medallists Fabien Lefevre and Denis Gargaud of France.

The quartet are now working together, sharing time on the water at the course in the Australian town of Penrith, near Sydney.

"We will do some competitive sessions with them; it's good to get a bit of race feeling into you this early in the winter," Hounslow, 30, told BBC Sport.

"But it isn't just winning a medal at the Olympics on our minds, it's making the Olympics. Getting selected can be harder than competing. So at the moment it's about focusing in on selection in mid-April and getting to the highest standard."

Hounslow and Florence face competition from fellow Britons Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott in the C2 category, while Hounslow is also battling to be selected in the K1 event and Florence is aiming to compete in the C1, a boat in which he won Olympic silver at the Beijing Games in 2008. Britain can have only one entrant in each event.

"Training's been going really well," said Hounslow. "It's been helped by quite a mild winter, and out here there are perfect training conditions.

"Our Olympic selection is one of the most straightforward, objective selections you can have: three races on the Olympic course and the best two count, so pretty much whoever wins two races goes to the Games.

"Selection went really well for me last year, winning the first two races. If things go the same for me this year, it'll be perfect."