Sport Northern Ireland funded athlete Hannah Craig has finished 13th in the World Canoe Slalom Championships in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
The 27 year old Antrim woman’s result is the best ever by an Irish paddler in the competition, and saw her overcome adverse weather conditions which hit the white-water rapids of the course on the Sava River. Hannah had this to say on her performance, “The course was difficult as the river had flooded between the qualifications and the semi-final, which meant that the water level was different and more inconsistent by the time I came to race. Many of my fellow competitors struggled. A missed stroke or the wrong angle coming over the drop can result in charging into the wall lining the drop at high speed, or ending up upside down.”
Whilst Hannah’s 13th placing meant she narrowly missed out on a place in the final, it does move her into the reckoning for London 2012 qualification next year. She commented, “The result couldn't have come at a better time as we approach the 12 month countdown to the first Olympic qualifier. In the next few months I’m at home training locally, planning the coming season. Then in January it's off to Oz for winter training on the Olympic slalom course for eight weeks. And then the racing kicks off again in April all the way through to the World Championships in September where I aim to qualify a spot for Ireland at the 2012 London Olympics by placing myself within the top 15 nations. I'm currently ranked 13th nation in the world and finished as 8th nation at the World Championships last week, so we are well on track for London.”
With a hugely important year ahead of her, Hannah reflected on the value of the support she has received thus far, both from her coach Han Bijen, and from the staff at the Sports Institute Northern Ireland (SINI), “Success is never achieved alone and I'm lucky to have around me a team of professionals whom I trust. This result is the ‘result’ of many hard years of training two to three times a day and a lot of perseverance from not only me, but equally my coach and partner, Han Bijnen. I have also created strong professional links this year with many of the staff at SINI who have shown unconditional support and excellence in their specific areas of expertise. Having people around you who genuinely understand the struggles and the ups and downs of being a full time athlete makes such a difference.”
Hannah also acknowledged the importance of the financial support she receives from Sport Northern Ireland through its Athlete Support Programme, “The financial support I receive from Sport Northern Ireland is a key factor in my performance. The specificity of my sport, and not having a white-water slalom course in Ireland, means I need to spend over 180 days abroad training and racing. The cost of travelling and training abroad is huge and Sport Northern Ireland contribute as much as they can, but I do hope to bring on board more ‘supporters’ to ease the financial difficulties I encounter as I head towards 2012.”