Lisburn’s Afton Fitzhenry sets her sights on the summer Olypmics
Afton Fitzhenry believes her partnership with Chloe Bracewell will go from strength to strength, as the duo maintained their bid for a spot at this summer’s Olympics with a strong performance at the sprint and paracanoe national selection event in Nottingham.
Lisburn paddler Fitzhenry teamed up with her English counterpart for the first time since 2016 at her first competition for 18 months, with the pair producing a time of 2:04.91 in the women’s C2 500m.
That was enough to earn them a place at May’s ICF European selection event in Szeged, Hungary, where qualification for the Games will be on the line.
And despite their lack of race time together Fitzhenry believes both her and Bracewell bring different experiences from the sport to the table, that should stand them in good stead on the road to Tokyo.
“We’ve both been involved in crew boats, but we haven’t paddled together competitively since 2016, in Duisburg,” she said. “It had been a long time apart but the last couple of months together have been really good.
“I don’t think it’s hindered us at all – if anything we’ve learnt lots of different things that have brought us together better.
“We’re happy with the time today but we were more focused on the process, than anything else. We’re constantly trying to find new ways of driving down the lane, and everything seems to be in place at the moment.
“We’re both so excited to have qualified for Hungary. We’re going there with the attitude that we’ve got nothing to lose and the boat’s getting better week-by-week, so it’s full steam ahead.”
Prior to her outing alongside Bracewell at Holme Pierrepont Fitzhenry featured in the individual women’s C1 200m, falling short of another chance in Hungary with a second-place finish behind Scot Katie Reid.
But having committed the majority of her time behind the scenes to the team event the 26-year-old wasn’t ruing that disappointment, instead vying to use the extra time on the water to her advantage going forward.
She added: “I don’t really train for the 200m, but I thought I’d have a go at it. It’s such a long time since I competed properly and I’m pleased with how I’ve performed, overall. I can take a lot from this regatta into my next international, which will be in Hungary. Between then and now I just need to keep working on certain things and make those practices part of my normal routine.”
British Canoeing is the national governing body for paddlesport in the UK