Rugby's Olympic canoeist Kimberley Woods ready for hectic season with Great Britain team

This season is going to be something of a whirlwind for Rugby’s Olympic canoeist Kimberley Woods – especially as she’s adding the new discipline of ‘extreme’ canoeing into the mix.

Rugby's 2021 Sportswoman of the Year, Kimberley Woods, is looking forward to a hectic season representing Great Britain  Picture by Kim Jones
Rugby's 2021 Sportswoman of the Year, Kimberley Woods, is looking forward to a hectic season representing Great Britain Picture by Kim Jones

She has five big slalom competitions between now and the end of July – but can’t wait to get started.

The international schedule is so crammed this year because the world championships have been switched from September to mark 50 years since canoe slalom became an Olympic sport. The event will match the exact dates and venue of the 1972 Munich Games.

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Kimberley’s first test starts at the end of May in the European Championships in Slovakia. Then it’s the three World Cups in June - in Prague (Czech Republic), Krakow (Poland) and Tacen (Slovenia) with just three weeks back home before heading to Ausburg, Germany.

"It’s going to be very busy,” said Kimberley. “I’ll be doing both classes (C1 and K1) as usual and now there’s extreme too.

"It’s going to be in Paris 2024, it’s very intense with lots of crashing!” explained the 26-year-old.

“At the start four people go off a ramp at the same time. It’s a lot of fun and really suits me.”

After finishing 10th in K1 at Tokyo 2020, Kimberley bounced back to win K1 bronze in the World Championships in Bratislava as well as team gold with Mallory Franklin.

"Having won a medal at the Worlds, I’m hoping to do it again and win more medals this year,” she said. “But it was such a big year last year, I want to enjoy this season, being abroad in good company.”

Kimberley’s winter was disrupted by illness and Covid, so she didn’t really start training properly until the new year.

"It was difficult to come to terms with what happened in Tokyo. Everyone knows I was disappointed and there were a lot of tears, but I came back to win a medal at the worlds.

"A lot of athletes felt such a big come down after the Olympics, having to pick ourselves back up again. It wasn’t just six months build-up, it was two years – but I’m more determined than ever to do my best this season.”

And with her sister Siobhan expecting a baby girl at the end of all that, Kimberley is looking forward to spending time with her new niece.

She’s already taken her four-year-old nephew out on the water, hoping to continue the Woods family talent, as Kimberley’s aunt Diane was also a Great Britain paddler.

The canoe star is grateful to the people of Rugby for their support.

"I’d just like to thank everyone,” she said, concluding her media day interview with the Advertiser.

"And I hope I’ll have their support again this year. When I came back for the Sports Awards (where she won Sportswoman of the Year 2021) it was amazing to see so much other talent in Rugby.

"Hopefully I can inspire other athletes coming up to be the best they can be in their sports.”

Kimberley is also grateful to her sponsors, especially Nationwide Windows.

"It’s a journey,” she said. “And I want to bring other people along with me on it.”