MALVERN’S sprint canoe specialist Emily Lewis said her long-awaited Olympic debut was the just reward for a gruelling decade of hard work.
The Malvern ace will compete at the Games for the first time in Tokyo after a turbulent sporting journey finally culminated in selection this week.
A switch to training in Guildford in 2019 – where she changed coach and trains with current Olympic champion Liam Heath – proved a turning point from which she has never looked back.
Lewis now has the chance for glory in the women’s K1 200m in the Japanese capital.
The jubilant 28-year-old said: “I’m am so excited I can hardly contain it. I have been working for ten years to get to an Olympics, so for it to actually be happening is pretty surreal.
“To get that Team GB kit, which I did last week, and to think there will be so many athletes wearing it with you, is really inspirational for me.
“It brought it home and made it feel the bit more real for me.
“I am in a better place than I would have been had the games not been delayed last year.
“I have had more time with my new coach and I have had more time training with Liam, which has been amazing.
“Just watching him and seeing how he works, and then trying to bring that into my own performances has been really helpful for me.
“I reassessed in 2019 what my goals look like, and decided to focus on the K1 200m, which ended up as the best decision I ever made.
“It is the event I have always loved the most, so I threw myself into that training and have enjoyed every day since.”
Although it will be her first Olympics, Lewis does have her fair share of experience to count upon in Tokyo.
She competed at the 2015 European Games in Baku – another multi-sport event – and also headed out to Rio in 2016 as part of the Team GB Ambitions Programme, experiencing life around the athletes village.
“Then in Rio I was able to see everything, watch different events, visit the food hall and the village. It was the excitement of being there without the pressure of competing.
“Now I am competing, I know I won’t get too excited, I will just view it as another competition.
“For me it is such a massive achievement to be selected, so if I can cross the finish line having produced a performance I am happy with, I will be satisfied with that.”
Away from the heat of competition, Lewis has devised her own plan to keep herself entertained while she has to observe tight Covid-19 restrictions.
“We have a good support team who are ready for the time away from competing, so plans are in place for that,” she said.
“My favourite thing to do at the moment is play on ‘Geo-guessr’, where you drop somewhere in the world on online maps and guess where you are.
“I have challenged people back home and we have a little competition going, so that will keep me entertained!”
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