Hannah can enjoy ‘little holiday’ after Olympic heroics

Irish kayaker Hannah Craig has some pressing issues to attend to after finishing 10th in the Olympic Games.

There is a bed to be purchased for the house she bought but has barely seen on the Ards peninsula. There is the commitment to coaching the next generation of young Irish Canoe Slalom talent through her development programme, Beyond 2012. Then and only then will she think about a “little holiday”.

The Lee Valley White Water Centre, which 24 hours earlier had crushed Eoin Rheinisch’s Olympic dreams, was a much happier hunting ground for the bubbly 27-year-old from Armoy in Antrim who took up kayaking after her family moved to France when she was nine.

Craig crept through the semi-final where the field was whittled down from 15 to 10 making it on the cut mark. That placement meant she was first into the water for the final and the six penalties incurred gave her a finish time of 127.36 seconds, 21.46 seconds behind the eventual winner, her old university friend, Emilie Fer of France.

But Craig wasn’t worrying about times in the aftermath. Her smile told the story. This was a day of surpassed expectations and the perfect advertisement for the sport she loves.

“Definitely making the final was a big, big achievement,” she said.

“I’m not fully satisfied with how I paddled in the final. There was a protest issue [from the semi] which went on for quite some time. I didn’t know until about 30 minutes before the final that I was starting. I lacked a little in my preparation going into the final as a result. I would have liked a better final but I’m happy to have made it. I am just delighted that people have got to see my sport and to see it at the best. I think we have got good coverage at home. It is a great sport.

“Ireland is a land of water. We need more kids paddling canoe slalom or canoeing in any form. We [in Ireland] should be really good at this sport given the amount of water we have.”

And to that end Craig has been putting her monies and her talents to develop Ireland into an international canoe slalom force.

“We [she and her coach/partner, Hans Bijen] had called the programme Beyond 2012 but now we will have to call it Beyond Rio!” she laughed. “I didn’t qualify for the Games in 2008 and I was definitely very disappointed. I used that disappointment to think what was important to me and there were only five people left paddling slalom in Ireland in 2008.

“I don’t believe that was the way to go and I felt I had a responsibility to get kids in a boat, get them going and get them to discover this sport. Some of the kids were here on Monday and got to see me. I hope that will inspire them.”

Some of those kids will now be at a training camp which Craig will oversee near Lyon in the coming weeks. Having an Olympic finalist offering advice and instruction should add to the excitement.

“There are 16 children going so it’s the biggest camp we’ve had. In terms of ages, we have a little girl who is 10, she paddles one of my old boats, up to 21.

“They’re a mix of kids from north and south. Some of them are on our junior and U23 teams and some of them are just beginning, so it’s a really nice group of kids. We’ve been going there for years.”

After that it is back to Northern Ireland and turning a house into a home. Since December 27 she has spent 20 nights under its roof as she crisscrossed the globe in pursuit of training stints, races and qualification for London. But a little over two minutes in the raging waters of this Olympic Games have made all it all worthwhile.

“I might get a little holiday but we have to go and buy a bed, because we have nothing in the house apart from a hoover.”

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