Tokyo 2020-one Olympians talk about their sport journeys and lifestyles

Florence Maheu, Cameron Smedley and Michael Tayler

The three first slalom Canadian athletes selected for the next Olympic games, talk about their training, lifestyles, and paddling journeys.

Interview conducted by Anthony Colin.

Do you have any favorite quotes or songs to motivate you?

Florence – Any songs that I like at the moment. I will add to my playlist for when I warm up or when I analyze the course.

My favorite quote before I race: just paddle like you’re training. I try to put aside the race and just focus on paddling like it was any other training session because that’s when I feel the most comfortable.

Cameron – Favorite quote: When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps. – Confucius

Favorite song: Break my stride – Matthew Wilder

Michael – (I know) There’s gonna be good times – Jamie XX

How is your daily routine during a race day? During a training day?

Florence – I like to only think about the race the day it happens. I usually race in the morning. I like to wake up early and be at the course early so that way I have plenty of time to plan for anything that might happen, I don’t have any surprises. After I get to the course, I will start by walking the course first and finalize my options. After that is over, I will do a dry warmup, some mobility and elastics warm up before I go in my boat for my first general warmup, where I usually just paddle in a straight line. Once I’m all done with that, the race has started, and I can watch some C1M to make sure all my options are good to go. I make sure I stay well hydrated all morning before my race. I will go back for a second warmup in the boat where I might use some gates on flatwater if there are some or I will do rotations and sprints. During this second warmup, I will also visualize my race in my head trying to only visualize my race in real time so it shouldn’t take longer than 2 minutes. I make my way to the start line about 8-10 minutes before my start time.

Cameron – Racing for me usually happens in the morning. It starts with good coffee and some breakfast and then I’ll head to the course 90mins before my start time to begin warming up and mental preparing. After finishing first run I’ll start to cool down as I get ready for second runs.

Michael – I think consistency and routine is key for racing. I try and keep things very similar to a training day. I also try and stay relaxed, and less focused for 80- 90% of the day, saving mental energy to focus on the course and the race intensely for 10-20% of the time. If you try and do something super special on your race day it can add stress.

What’s your special secret? Give one motivation tip.

Florence – No secret, but I think we tend to forget about it. Don’t forget why you are doing it. Question yourself everyday if you are doing it for yourself and if you are doing it because you love it. At the end of day, you are the one putting the work in, you are the one competing and you are the one that wins or loses. The best motivation resides within you.

Cameron – Reframing your state of mind can help in managing your expectations for an event.

Michael – Have other goals outside paddling, and work to achieve them. When you have multiple goals, it can take the pressure off achieving your athletic ones.

Best place to train? Best place to race?

Florence – I really like to train in Penrith, Australia. First of all, it’s great because it gives us the opportunity to train on whitewater during the winter while having amazing conditions. Also, because Penrith is a small town, we are able to be centralized and focus on training. We can limit our time in a car and maximize recovery. Personally, I like Penrith because I am able to do other things that I love while I’m training for slalom such as biking and swimming. I think that my favorite place to race is Liptovsky Mikulas in Slovakia. I chose this place because the river is beautiful, it looks more natural than artificial to me. The scenery that surrounds the course is one the most beautiful in my opinion. This course is also associated with my best result for me, a 13th place at the World Cup #1 in 2018.

Cameron – Among good teammates.

Michael – Australia for training; London for racing.

Your favorite session? Your worst session?

Florence – The two questions are not easy to answer for me, it’s hard to pick a favorite and a worst session when you love everything about kayaking. I have to say though that my favorite session is probably timed short courses like quarters or thirds. I love the competitive aspect of trying to beat your time or your teammates times. I also like to be able to push the limits and try new ways of doing a sequence of gates or try a crazy upstream on a backstroke.

I have to say that I am not the biggest fan of running. If I can switch running for biking or swimming I will but if I have to run it’s not the end of the world either. I know sometimes there is no other choice and running is always a good option to get some either short intervals or long slow distance in.

Cameron – Favorite: anything on a natural river.

Least Favorite: technique in the winter.

Michael – Challenging/Impossible technique.

Can’t think of the worst one. Every session can be the worst if you are tired or injured or not motivated.

What is your favorite cooking recipe?

Florence – I love to cook. I love picking a recipe, going to the grocery store and making a meal from scratch. It’s also a great way to become independent and will certainly come in handy during training camps. That said, my favorite, go-to recipe is probably banana pancakes. Who doesn’t love breakfast for lunch or even breakfast for dinner because really breakfast is the best meal of the day, am I right?

Cameron – Butter Chicken.

Michael – Bulk pack of chicken, bbq-d.

What is your real motivation for Tokyo 2020one?

Florence – My real motivation for Tokyo 2020one is to see how far I can go. I will continue kayaking and training as long as I see that I’m progressing. My real motivation in anything is really to see where all my efforts, my passion, my perseverance and my discipline where all of this can take me. I want to give my 150% in everything and push the limits of what I am capable of.

Cameron – It still needs to be determined with respect to the covid-19 outbreak.

Michael – To prepare in the next year to do the best run I can and see what happens.

What is the biggest mistake you can make during a race?

Florence – I think in races I have made a lot of mistakes by not analyzing the course properly or trying to still go for my plan A instead of being able to adapt quickly and switch plans. I think that I have improved that with gaining more racing experiences, but I also have tried to reduce the number of runs during what we call quality workouts and really focus on analyzing rather than doing a million runs.

Cameron – Losing your head before the race has even begun.

Michael – Taking a shortcut in the race preparation. Improvisation and quick adjustments are important but it’s much easier to make a change in plan than create one as you go…

Most important lesson you learned so far in your sport career?

Florence – The most important lesson I learned throughout my sport career is that you need to put in the work by yourself. In our sport, we don’t have a lot of coaches, we don’t have a lot of resources, so you need to make the first step. Once you know how to work hard on you own and be discipline then when you have the resources it’s easy to get better. If I take myself as an example, I didn’t have a full-time coach until I was on the senior team in 2017 but I think I had a good training base. Once I started working on my weaknesses with a coach, I could see the progress happen fairly quickly. All I’m saying is if you want something to happen you need to take the first steps.

Cameron – Every lesson is an important lesson.

Michael – Have fun and enjoy these moments because we are very lucky to be able to do what we do.

Recommended book to read and movie to watch?

Florence – Grit: The power of passion and perseverance written by Angela Duckworth. I have the audio book which is played by the author and I have listened to it twice already in the last year. I liked this book because it doesn’t only relate to sport but all the spheres of life.

This one is a little funnier. Remember the Titans, a movie from 2000, is my favorite movie. I received this movie as a VHS for my 8th birthday, my cousin gave it to me because she knew I loved football. Little did I know that this movie would follow me all the way to the Olympics. It sounds funny to say this but when I watched this when I was younger, I really related to it and it made my passion for sport grow.

Cameron Book: Malcolm Gladwell – Outliers.

Movie: Icarus.

Michael – Tiger King.

Best tip for recovery?

Florence – This is a hard one for me and it is something that I’m working on because I’m not good at it. I like to always go, go, go. I think my best tip for recovery is when you plan your week with your trainings, plan your recovery as well. Make sure before the week starts you have a day off planned or at least 2 halves a day off. Make sure you have planned a couple of mobility/stretching and that you stick to your schedule.

Cameron – Active stretching and mobility.

Michael – Sila Thai Massage in Penrith. Or an Ice bath.

Imagine: You become sport minister of Canada in 2025! What are your first decisions?

Florence – I would suggest connecting with all the sport federations in order to understand the financial challenges in the different sports. That way we could better understand the differences and maybe we could solve some of the inequity happening between the funding of different sports. I would also suggest that we increase the hours of physical activity in school.

Cameron – I don’t have a good enough grasp on the overview of our sport system to entertain the hypothetical of making improvements.

Michael – Olympic Bid 2032.

Anything you want to add?

Florence – Be safe everyone and I can’t wait to paddle with all of you soon ☺

Michael – I said it is was important for me to have goals outside paddling…But also to be competitive in slalom as a Canadian takes a lot of sacrifice. You have to be ready to give some things up if you want to find success.

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