‘I’ve got a job to do’ – Staffordshire canoeist Adam Burgess fully focused for first Olympics

He is the latest Olympian to come out of Stafford & Stone Canoe Club

Photo credit: Antoine Lamielle

Slalom canoeist Adam Burgess will take to the water in his first Olympic Games on Sunday as the Staffordshire-born man vies for gold.

A product of Stafford & Stone Canoe Club, the 29-year-old has come a long way since first trying the sport on the River Trent at 10-years-old.

His career is on an upwards trajectory having come second in the 2019 World Cup, building on his third-place finish in 2017.

He also previously won gold in the C-2 team event at at the 2012 European Championships.

He managed to qualify for Tokyo in 2019 but, like all athletes, had to wait an extra year to compete after the Games were postponed for 12 months due to the pandemic.

However, Burgess told the Staffordshire Sport Podcast that he embraced the delay after a nervy few weeks.

“The initial thing when it was postponed was: ‘Are we going to have to worry about selection again? When’s that going to happen? How fair is that going to be?’” he said.

“Once that was out the way, I was pretty positive about it from the word go. I don’t really dwell on things long.

“I was like ‘bring it on, I’ve got another year’.”

Burgess celebrated his 29th birthday in the Olympic village last week ahead of his C-1 opening heats race on July 25.

With most medallists tending to be in their early 30s, he hopes that his career peak has come at the right time.

A different Olympics

Tokyo 2020 will look a lot different than previous Olympics due to coronavirus.

The Olympic village has strict rules on mixing and the duration of stay with athletes expected to be out of the vicinity two days after their competition ends.

Furthermore, masks are to be worn at all times apart from when competing or practicing.

And, of course, there will be no spectators in attendance due to the high Covid rates in Tokyo, whose mayor has declared a state of emergency in the city.

Nevertheless, Burgess underlined that he is fully concentrating on the task at hand, despite the unusual surrounding cirucmstances.

He said: “I feel very much like I’ve got a job to do now. I feel very focused.

“Myself and my coach rehearse our race day routines pretty much on a weekly basis.

“We just go out there and do the same job. We’re trying to make it as normal as possible because particularly with a first Olympics it can just be this huge thing and you can go there and be overwhelmed by it and not perform.

“You see that happen all the time. That’s one way instance where it might be quite fortunate for me that it’s a slightly different Games this time.

“But I can’t wait. It’s about sharing it, really. Canoe slalom is not a massive sport but everyone get behind the Olympics and Team GB.

“So it’s my opportunity to share the love for what I think is the best sport in the world and hopefully give everyone back home on their sofas something to cheer about.”

Burgess remembering his routes

Prior to jetting off half way across the world, Burgess made sure to pay tribute to Stafford & Stone Canoe Club who nurtured him into the sport.

“What’s so good is, as well as amazing volunteer and coaches, the number of athletes that come through that system,” he said.

“I make a point of getting back to Stone when I can, make sure I show my face so the kids can see that it’s real and it can happen.

“I always say you can spot a paddler from Stone because they’ve got better connection (between paddle and water) than anyone.”

The club has a rich history of producing athletes who go on to be Olympians.

Rio 2016 saw Joe Clarke take gold in the K1M – a first for the club.

Other Olympians include Lizzie Neave (London 2012), Laura Blakeman (Sydney 2000), Richard Fox (Barcelona 1992), Melvyn Jones (Barcelona 1992), Liz Sharman (Seoul 1988), Pauline Goodwin (Montreal 1976 & Munich 1972), John Goodwin (Munich 1972) and John Court (Munich 1972).

Burgess will hope to replicate Clarke’s feat but this time in the C-1 category. His competition starts on July 25 with the final on July 26.

A medal there could be one of Team GB’s first in the whole Games due to the event’s early conclusion date.

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