Bratislava in Slovakia played host to the 2014 European Freestyle Kayaking Championships earlier this month– the top level competition for freestyle canoeing in Europe.
Among the athletes taking part was Bedford-based kayaker Alex Edwards, competing in the squirt boat category. Alex was selected to represent Great Britain after the GB trials in Nottingham.
And it was a competition to remember for Alex as he delivered a scintillating display to win gold and take the title of European Champion.
Alex went to the event full of confidence having won gold and silver medals at the World Cups earlier in the summer – however the level of competition was very high, with reigning European champion Ben Aldred and 2013 world bronze medallist Max Karlsson among the elite field of competitors.
The number of entrants meant there would be three rounds of competition to decide the medallists.
Two solid runs in the heats saw Alex qualify through to the semi-final in second place.
Back in action the same day, Alex didn’t let fading light put him off in the semis as he managed the best mystery move of the competition on his second run – completely submerging his boat and body under the water.
This pushed up his score, qualifying him for the final in first place.
The next morning saw the top five paddlers competing over three runs, with the single highest score for each deciding the placings.
As with the earlier rounds it was a tense affair as there had been little to separate the top three at any stage, but the final scores came in with Alex scoring 1,085 points, taking first place and the European title by only 90 points.
Alex said: “I’m really happy with the result. After the World Cups I worked hard to put together a plan to give myself a chance of winning; to go out and execute that plan and paddle as well as I did and win feels incredible.
“It still hasn’t sunk in – I knew I had a chance, but I really didn’t expect to win.”
On reflection of his 2014 competition season as a whole,Alex said: “The whole year has far exceeded any expectations I had.
“I was hoping to be able to make finals and I’ve ended up winning gold medals; it’s really crazy.”