Olympic champion Clarke: You can't keep living off the back of Rio

Slalom World Cup - Lee Valley 2019. Pic: AEPhotos

Reigning Olympic canoe slalom champion Joe Clarke is primed and ready to defend his title in Tokyo next year.

But the 26-year-old, who made history in Rio becoming the first British man to win K1 gold, isn’t feeling any pressure just yet.

Despite his success in Brazil three years ago, Stafford athlete Clarke is yet to add an individual World Championships gold medal to his collection and is hell-bent on doing exactly that in Spain when the competition rolls back around on September 25.

The event doubles up as the third and final Olympic qualifying event meaning there will be a chance for Clarke to ensure a British K1 boat competes in Tokyo – and to prove that he should be the man to paddle in it.

“Going into competitions as the reigning Olympic champion, it feels like there is less pressure because that is the title that people are going after – the pressure I do feel is internal than from anywhere else,” he said.

“Having already achieved that is a nice position to be in so while it would be nice to go to another Olympics, I also have my eye on a World title and European title.

“Don’t get me wrong I would love to be a double Olympic champion – I would be the first person do that in kayaking – so that that is my main motivation.

“In an athlete’s career you might only get one or two chances to go to the Olympics and especially in this sport, it makes it even harder with just the one spot available.”

Clarke got off to a flying start at the beginning of the season and put himself in in great contention by winning the first World Cup event at Lee Valley.

He then followed that up with his best ever finish at the European Championships, coming home fourth.

And the Staffordshire man hopes that his success will breathe more life into his sport and encourage younger athletes to pick up a paddle and take to the water.

“Looking back at Rio, it was such a fantastic experience, but life moves on and you quickly realise that,” he added.

“You can’t just live off the back of that and I had to get back into shape and work hard to get back to where I was after the games and since then I have just been building on that.

“I have evolved as a person and I have a lot more responsibility in the things that I say and the influence I have in the sport because canoe slalom is a very niche sport.

“I have always tried to use the exposure I have to get more people into boats and raise the profile of the sport – because it is a great sport.”

Great Britain’s slalom paddlers will be competing on home soil at the European Canoe Slalom Championships presented by Jaffa on 15-17 May 2020 at Lee Valley White Water Centre.

Tickets go on sale on Tuesday 1 October. Full booking details on priority tickets are available at https://www.britishcanoeingevents.org.uk/