A GROUP of canoe slalom athletes compete at the European Junior Championships in Austria and Germany recently.

The group who are part of Wyedean Canoe Club and regularly train on the River Wye, at Symonds Yat, were invited to take part in the British Canoeing team in recognition of their strong performance in UK rankings.

Canoe Slalom is an Olympic sport and involves the timed navigation of a series of gates on a stretch of white water.

Lydia Lafford, Daniel Lafford, William Lafford, Felix Newey and Lucy Knight were all selected for the squad in the single kayak class, with David Mitchell in the single canoe.

There were two races, the first in the beautiful mountain setting of Flattach, Austria and the second in the Bavarian city of Augsburg, Germany. The competition was tough with some of the best junior athletes coming from all over the world to take part.

At Flattach, the paddlers had to get through the qualifying rounds with often just fractions of seconds between competitors.

The competition adopted the rules for senior and Olympic events with no prior practice on the course and only one run down the course to determine which paddlers would go through to the final.

Lydia Lafford and Lucy Knight both made it through to the finals in the ladies under-16 age category, with Knight finishing in seventh place and Lafford in fifth place.

Meanwhile, William and Daniel Lafford took part in the under-18’s male kayak race which was particularly competitive, with only William reaching the finals.

Felix Newey also reached the final in the under-16’s kayak.

David Mitchell was the only Wyedean paddler to compete in canoe – adopting a kneeling position and using a single blade paddle.

The youngster battled hard in what was truly an outstanding class and missed qualification by just one place.

After Flattach the group transferred to the rather formidable artificial course in Augsburg, Germany. Many of the top venues around the world use man-made channels to create the perfect white-water conditions.

Augsburg was one of the first ever built and used for the 1972 Munich Olympic Games and carries a fearsome reputation due to the difficulty of the water.

After an opportunity to have some training on the course the group entered the qualification rounds in two days of racing and following the same format as Austria.

Only the ladies reached the finals at this venue, with Lydia Lafford reaching the final on both days and achieving an impressive 13th place overall. After being knocked out on the first day Lucy Knight came back strongly to comfortably reach the finals on the second day.

Head Coach at Wyedean Canoe Club, Mike Mitchell said: “It was so pleasing to see our young paddlers get the recognition from British Canoeing and be invited to race in Europe for their country. "These paddlers train hard all year round and the results are testament to all their hard work and commitment.

"This is a trip the young athletes will remember and competing at that level will certainly set them in good stead as they return to a busy season of UK competitions.”

Wyedean Canoe Club and all the paddlers and parents would like to say a huge thanks to Hereford based Tudors Building Supplies whose generous sponsorship made the whole trip possible and gave some young paddlers an experience they will never forget.

Wyedean Canoe Club meet on a Thursday night, April to October at Symonds Yat East.

The club offer opportunities for young people to try canoe slalom as well as offering taster sessions and introductions to kayaking in general for any ability. For more information visit their web site at: www.wyedeancanoeclub.co.uk