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Olympic Test Event Begins In Eton
Dorney Lake in Eton is hosting it's second Olympic test event, ahead the rowing and canoeing events at the 2012 games being held there.
The first international canoe sprint regatta in Britain for more than 30 years takes place over the next four days at the lake near Windsor.
For Jon Schofield and Liam Heath, two of the nation's leading medal hopes, it provides an opportunity for some swift revenge.
Only two weeks ago in Hungary the pair were pushed into second place at the World Championships by just 0.21 seconds, as France's Arnaud Hybois and Sebastien Jouve told the gold medal.
``They weren't at the European Championships when we won in Belgrade in June [Britain's only gold],'' said 26-year-old Schofield, originally from Clitheroe in Lancashire, but now based in Maidenhead.
``It was tactical - they competed last year and had a really bad result, so didn't want to repeat that.
``They are the world record holders and double world champions, so will be favourites, but we're hugely encouraged by our latest performance.
``It was one place better than we did last year and probably the best race we've done all year.
``I think we're getting the measure of what we need to do to beat them. We've beaten them in the past and are consistently close to them.''
Schofield's rivalry with Hybois goes back nearly a decade to their time in wildwater canoeing. Schofield was junior world champion in 2002, but made the switch four years ago to try for the Olympics.
He just missed out on qualifying for Beijing, but was there to see Tim Brabants win gold and bronze medals.
``The inspiration I draw from him is that if you work hard you succeed. We worked tremendously hard and showed that it was possible,'' Schofield said.
``The Games were eye-opening because they're unlike anything else I've ever seen, but at the same time eye-opening in the sense that the race itself is just the same as doing it your own.''
A total of 198 athletes from 32 countries will be competing in the latest of the series of test events ahead of next summer's Olympics.
Schofield and Heath compete in 200 metres kayak doubles, a pure speed event which takes just over 30 seconds.
Next year will be the first time it has featured in an Olympics.
``I have a lot more natural ability for this shorter distance than the 500 metres, which was the event I was training for. It made my life a lot easier,'' Schofield said.
``If you make a mistake in the 200 metres anybody can be beaten. It's pure sprint - very little pacing, very little breathing and no room for error.''
He is the one in the back of the boat.
``You can't tell where you are in the race from there, but it seems to be my strength,'' Schofield said.
``You need to be good at copying the guy in front. Some people want to do their own thing and others like myself are more adaptable to paddling like their partner.
``I can feed off them and give them a smooth platform so he feels he's just paddling on his own.
``We went through a process early last year where we did every possible combination and raced off. It became pretty obvious what the best crew was.''
This weekend could well be their last race until April, so to have a victory over the French before going into winter training would be timely indeed.
Because the main purpose of the regatta is to test the technical and sporting aspects of the venue, however, it is not open to the public.
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