Thorpe teenager sets his sights on canoeing glory

14-year-old Robert Barkway has been selected for the Eastern region talent squad in sprint kayaking as part of the GB canoeing talent pathway following mum Kelly and dad Andy who are both former GB paddlers. Photo by Simon Finlay. 14-year-old Robert Barkway has been selected for the Eastern region talent squad in sprint kayaking as part of the GB canoeing talent pathway following mum Kelly and dad Andy who are both former GB paddlers. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Friday, June 13, 2014
9:00 AM

A Thorpe St Andrew teenager is hoping to make a splash in the world of kayaking after being selected for GB canoeing’s talent squad.

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Canoe and Kayak Sprint events

In canoe sprint events, athletes race on a straight course, each boat in a separate lane, over three different distances: 200m, 500m and 1,000m.

There are kayak events in single (K1), double (K2) and quadruple (K4) boats and canoe events in single (C1), double (C2) and quadruple (C4) boats.

Traditionally, canoe has been exclusively for men, but there is a growing women’s contingent and women’s C1 (canoe single) and C2 (canoe double) are in the World Championship programme for 2010.

Canoe sprint became an Olympic discipline in 1936.

What is the difference between a kayak and a canoe?

In a kayak, the paddler is seated and uses a two-blade paddle, while in a canoe, the paddler is kneeling on one knee, and uses a single-blade paddle.

Source: GB Canoeing

Despite having to overcome a serious memory problem, Robert Barkway has joined the eastern region talent squad in sprint kayaking as part of the GB canoeing talent pathway.

With very little short-term memory, the 14-year-old barely spoke before the age of nine, but is now coming into his own as a canoeist.

The Thorpe St Andrew School pupil, who lives in Chalgrove Field, in Dussindale, said: “I’m very happy because I want to go to the world final in kayaking.

“I enjoy the competitions and it’s quite nice in the summer to have a long paddle. The other thing is everyone is so friendly at Nottingham, where we do the sprints.” Robert’s parents, Kelly and Andy, run Broadland Paddle Sports, in Girlings Lane, and are both former GB paddlers.

Robert Barkway with mum Kelly. .
Photo by Simon Finlay.Robert Barkway with mum Kelly. . Photo by Simon Finlay.

The canoe centre has around 80 members, the youngest of whom is eight and the oldest 74.

Mum Kelly said they had encouraged their children, including Robert’s younger sister Grace, 13, to try different types of sports, but Robert had made up his own mind to try to become a faster paddler than his parents.

She said: “We are really proud of him because of the problems he has had in his life. He’s done extremely well.

“Robert has short-term memory problems and had a lot of difficulties to overcome. He used to get very frustrated by it, he was an angry boy and had a lot of problems at school.

“He didn’t start talking until he was nine or reading until about 10.

“The only person he used to talk to was myself, in single syllables. He didn’t know how to and didn’t have the confidence to.”

While one of Robert’s mentors is Ivan Lawler, who won multiple gold and silver medals at the canoe world championships, the teenager said his parents were his role models.

He said: “I want to do what they have done. They have coached others and put something back into the sport so people can enjoy it just as much as they did when they were younger.”

Do you have a Thorpe St Andrew story? Contact reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772474 or email kim.briscoe@archant.co.uk

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