Rio might be looming ever closer, but Olympic gold medallist Etienne Stott admits it is simply a dream come true just to be able to race after a challenging few years.
The Bedford slalom canoeist helped make history in London when, alongside his partner Tim Baillie, he won gold in the C2 event while compatriots David Florence and Richard Hounslow secured silver.
The ultimate high was then followed by the low of spending almost a year out injured due to a dislocated shoulder.
His long-term partner Baillie decided to retire early in 2014 and Stott was forced to find a new partner.
The 36-year-old linked up with Mark Proctor in June last year and started competing internationally for the first time earlier this year.
Their first major race together at the European Championships ended with a fifth-place finish, something the former Biddenham Upper School pupil described as ‘an epic achievement.’
And although their first World Cup in Prague ended in disappointment, Stott is confident the pair are heading in the right direction.
He said: “I wouldn’t say the last few years were difficult, they have been intense, challenging and enjoyable – it has been a mixture of everything.
“The period after London 2012 was amazing, so interesting and there was so much to learn with so many new experiences.
“Getting injured forced me to stop for almost a year and Tim, my old crew mate, retired and whilst it was expected it was still difficult.
“But working with Mark has been excellent and it has been a dream come true to continue in the sport and being able to press towards the World Championships in London, the Olympics in Rio in 2016 and beyond really.
“Working with a new partner is really challenging. Tim and I raced for nine years together and grew together as a crew and as people in that time.
“When you get a new crew mate you have to recreate those nine years of work in a very short time as it has only been a year together.
“We are working really hard to bring together our knowledge, our intelligence, our abilities and experiences so we can align towards the task we face.”
He continued: “It has been extremely interesting but it has been very hard as well.”
There are two World Cups left this year but the duo will partake in just one of them, in La Seu d’Urgell between August 8-9, so they can focus more on the World Championships in London.
It is huge year for all of the GB canoeists as, after September’s World Championships, they have the trials for next year’s Olympics in Rio a few weeks later – a fact not lost on Stott.
“We will focus on little else than doing our best,” he added.
“We want to prepare as best as we can in the week building up to the race because it is a new river we haven’t race in and it is only our third international race so we have to go through the processes and really work on what we know are the right things to do to get the best results.
“We will then learn from whatever comes out of it.”
See the world’s top canoe slalom athletes in action on the Olympic course in London at the Canoe Slalom World Championships. Tickets: www.ticketmaster.co.uk/london2015