RUGBY slalom canoeist Kimberley Woods intends to show that age is just a number when she competes in this week’s World Championships.
It has been quite a season for Woods, who despite only turning 20 this week, has followed individual and team bronze medals at the Under-23 World Championships with the senior European title earlier this year.
Now she is hoping to take a giant step towards potential qualification for the Rio Olympics in front of her home fans.
Woods has proven she belongs at elite level but for the former Trinity Catholic School pupil, she is still relishing the chance to learn from – as well as compete with – paddlers who in many cases have a decade’s more experience.
Role models have now become team-mates and Woods is hoping she can emulate the Team GB stars from London 2012 at the World Championships, as elite canoe slalom returns to Lee Valley White Water Centre three years on.
“It means a lot to compete against the best athletes in the world that have much more experience than I do,” she said.
“I’m only 20 and having people around me who are ten or 20 years older than me is amazing. I’ll be competing against them on the same level and it’s amazing to know I’m up there with them.
“It’s amazing having everyone else come here and seeing how you go against them on your own course.
“Competing against the best in the world here at the World Championships will also give a good insight into what it would be like at the Rio Olympics.”
Lee Valley is the home to the World Championships between September 16 and 20 and it is the first time this county has hosted the competition in 20 years.
The Hertfordshire University student, who will be competing in C1 and k1 classes, will be one of 14 paddlers from these shores to compete in the World Championships and it provides them with an opportunity to secure Team GB a place for next summer’s Olympic Games in several classifications.
It also provides the individual athletes with the chance to earn bonus points ahead of their own Olympic selection process in October.
Woods, who now lives in Goffs Oak, Hertfordshire, close to her Lee Valley training base, added: “The World Championships are very important leading up to the Rio Olympics selection.
“I’m very excited for the World Championships and to have such a big event on our home course. I know the atmosphere will be amazing.
“We have our Olympic selections event at the course next month so competing against the best in world here at the World Championships will give us a good insight into whether or not we can keep it up for Olympic selection and take that top spot to go to the Games.”
See the world’s top canoe slalom athletes in action on the Olympic course in London at the Canoe Slalom World Championships. Tickets: ticketmaster.co.uk/london2015