Sarah Grant has no interest in talking about the 2016 Rio Olympics.
For her they are a long way from now. There are two World Championships between now and then.
On the eve of her sixth World Championships, 28-year-old Grant feels her time might be now. She showed signs on this year’s K1 World Cup circuit that everything was coming together nicely at the right time.
An eighth in London, and a fourth in Augsburg bookended the Victorian’s European summer – her best results since way back in 2010.
“I’m really happy with my result in London and Augsburg, although slightly frustrated I wasn’t clean in Augsburg, but I was disappointed with the races in the middle of the World Cup season,” Grant said this week.
“A combination of factors meant I was not happy with my second, third and fourth World Cup, but I was able to learn a lot from those races that will hopefully make me better prepared for the Worlds.”
It’s that ability to learn and adapt that Grant believes is making her a better paddler in 2014, even better than when she finished sixth in the 2010 World Championships.
“The changes I think are showing through this season are the result of years of working on paddling in a more efficient and consistent way, and having confidence that that style is fast enough,” she said.
“I think I am smarter now with how I train compared to when I was first starting out on the team, and I think that has helped me avoid needing to modify competition routines.
“It’s so easy to think more is better in terms of training, but a lot of people taught me that isn’t the case.
“But I think the biggest change for me has been mentally, and a change in what my focus and goals are when I sit on the start line.”
Now it comes down to putting it all into practise. Grant feels a little nervous, but that’s normal for her – and nowhere near as bad as it used to be.
The big difference this year is she goes into Deep Creek off the back of a strong lead-up race.
“I wouldn’t say it takes the pressure off, but it definitely adds confidence heading into the World Championships,” Grant said.
“I felt like I was able to iron out some issues I had before the World Cup campaign and feel I’m now in a good spot to deliver my best in Deep Creek.
“I think there is going to be a good crowd atmosphere at the race. It’s the biggest event for the year for us so the pressure is on to perform.
“It’s not everyday you get a chance to race for the World title so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Grant joined several of her teammates in Deep Creek for training for a fortnight in July. It gave her a first look, and feel, for a very different course that has lots of little surprises and its fair share of challenges.
“The course is interesting,” she said.
“The whitewater is smaller then a lot of the courses we generally race on, but the water is still quite tricky. The currents move around a lot, so you’ve really got to be aware of what the water is doing around you.
“You can do the same move five times and probably each time you do it, it will be slightly different depending on what the water is doing. I think the course for the race will be tight and tricky and make for some exciting racing.”
The other advantage Grant may have over other competitors in Deep Creek is her focus. Many athletes talk openly about their dreams of Rio 2016, and how it has become all-consuming.
But ask Sarah Grant about her Rio ambitions and you get a very no-nonsense and driven response.
“I haven’t thought as much about Rio as I did about London,” she said.
“All my planning, training and goals have centered on the World Championships this year. There are many things I want to achieve in my career, and Rio is not the only thing on that list.
“Towards the end of next year and into 2016, I’m sure I will spend a lot of time thinking about Rio. But for now, for this year, it’s all about the World Championships.
“Every time I get in the boat to train, it’s with the goal of being faster and better for the Worlds this year.”
It’s the attitude and focus that might just make 2014 Sarah Grant’s World Championship year.
And then, just maybe, she’ll allow herself to think about Rio. Even if it’s only for a little while.
|Sarah Grant Profile|