The Welsh canoeist and Australian Youth Olympic champion explains how he uses race techniques to tackle exams, as well as his dream to compete in the London 2012 Olympics.
Raise Your Game: How did you first get involved in canoeing?
Rhys Davies: I got involved through our local canoe club which was advertised at a local leisure centre. I thought 'Yeah, I'll give it a go.' I enjoyed it and it continued from there.
RYG: Can you explain some of the skills that you have developed through canoeing?
RD: You have to learn to pace yourself throughout a course, to know when to push it hard and when to take it easy. You also have to learn to make the most efficient use of the lines in the water and also make the most of your strength through your stroke pattern.
RYG: Do you prepare differently for each course?
RD: The water varies in every course around the world. There's probably no one course that is similar, so I make sure that I train on different rivers to prepare for different courses.
28 October 1991
Canoe Slalom C2/C1 (Canadian two man/ Canadian one man)
- Bronze, C2 (with partner Matt Lister), Junior European Championships, Liptovsky Mikulas (2009)
- Gold - C2 (with partner Matt Lister), Australian Youth Olympic Festival (2009)
- November 2009 ranked 3rd in premier C2 doubles division and 10th in the C1 men's premier division - UK National Ranking.
RYG: Can you transfer the skills that you have developed through canoeing into other areas of your life?
RD: My concentration skills and my complete focus in the water has been useful. I use similar race techniques when I am taking exams and it just keeps me in the zone.
RYG: Is it important to set goals?
RD: Yes, I set myself performance goals all the time rather than focusing on the outcomes. So instead of thinking 'Am I going to achieve this?' I think of goals such as 'I want to get a good stroke today.'
RYG: How do you cope with the pressures of competing?
RD: I tend to be really composed on the start line and I don't really think much about the competition, but my C2 partner is always urging us on so it's a good combination of the both of us which helps us race.
RYG: The C2 event is a team event. How does it help to work with someone else in that situation?
RD: It helps because there can be quite a bit of emotional stress when things go wrong. You know that it's going to be rough on both of you so it helps dealing with that together.
RYG: How do you motivate each other when the going gets tough?
RD: We learn to forgive if we make any mistakes and it's realising that we're both just as stressed because of the training. Luckily both of us are quite forgiving. We know that we both want to do our best and that's why we get upset when things go wrong.
RYG: What does a typical week's training involve?
RD: It involves three gym sessions to build my strength and power in the water, two running sessions to keep a base fitness and eight canoeing sessions.
RYG: How do you manage to balance a busy training programme with your academic studies?
RD: It can be hard. I create a timetable so that I can see what I am doing throughout the day and when I can fit in my training. I try to fit training in in between my school lessons and whenever I've got free lessons.
RYG: How committed do you need to be to reach the highest level in your sport?
RD: Very committed. I've missed quite a few social events, but it's definitely worth it in the end to come back and know that I've performed well and have done something good with my life.
RYG: You successfully claimed gold in the men's C2 event in the Australian Youth Olympics Festival in 2009, how did that feel?
RD: That was quite an experience. We didn't even expect to go out to Australia because we were the reserve boats for the team, however one of the crews got themselves injured just before the qualification events and so we were given the opportunity to go. It was a great surprise for us.
RYG: How do you deal with nerves before a big race?
RD: I tend to find that I get less nervous when I don't think about the outcomes and just try to think of the processes. Then I can keep focused. That way there's little distraction. Quite often in these events, you have some background music so I just try to let my mind wander and get into the zone for racing.
RYG: Why do you think young people should be involved in canoeing in particular?
RD: It's a really easy sport to enjoy and it's a very social sport. I have made lots of friends through canoeing. It's also great to be outdoors and on the water.
RYG: What are your ambitions for the future and how will you stay focused on your goals?
RD: I am hoping to get selected for the under 23 team for Great Britain in 2010 and I am also trying to push for the senior team.
My dream is to get a chance to compete at the London 2012 Olympics. I will stay focused on that goal by finding new ways to enjoy my sport.
Goals keep you motivated and they give you a direction.
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