London, England
Friday 2nd November 2012
Last night my memory was cast back to 2005...the months shortly after I had left Heart of Midlothian & was trying to decide where I should take my sports physiotherapy career. I had become disillusioned with the people in power of some football clubs, more specifically those with little insight into the nuances of human performance & the influence a well run medical & exercise science department could have on their playing staff. I was slowly coming around to the fact that I wanted to see how other sports, other coaches & other athletes approached the support sciences.

Within a short space of time, an offer from the Scottish Rugby Union & another from Jamie Murray's coaching team would come along, giving me some exciting opportunities to explore but prior to launching myself into those projects, I was fortunate enough to be offered another interesting challenge. I received a phone call from Julie Pearce, then, as now the lead physiotherapist for the GB canoe slalom team & was asked if I could cover a couple of training camps & competitions around Europe. I jumped at the chance & over the next few months had the privilege to work with a dedicated, professional & hard working group of athletes that were the complete opposite of some of the footballers you read about in the media today.

Among that group, coached by Jurg Gotz, were Tim Baillie, Etienne Stott, Dave Florence & Rich Hounslow, whom many of you may recall took the gold & silver in the men's C2 in London this summer. Huw Swetnam, Andy Hadfield, Fiona Pennie & Kimberley Walsh were other promising paddlers with youngsters Tom Brady, Lizzie Neave & Mark Proctor also learning their trade. But without doubt, the class act at that time was another Scot, Campbell Walsh. Campbell had won a silver medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics & had also won the overall title in the World Cup that year.

Campbell set the tone in my opinion. He grafted hard, striving with every run he took in practice to attain something of value, either physiologically or technically & pushing himself hard in every competitive run. No opportunity was wasted. He spent the time with Jurg, analysing his footage, reflecting on what he had done & what he had yet to achieve; yet the whole time, he seemed to enjoy the efforts he was exerting.

There was obviously staunch competition within the team, as only two boats could represent Team GB in the championships, yet despite the odd ripples, the atmosphere within the team was very positive. After one particular training camp in Slovakia, at the home course of the legendary Martikan brothers, the end of the season was celebrated with an eventful night out in a local bar & nightclub...a night that apparently lives long in the memory of all those involved, but one that seemed a terrible idea a couple of hours after arriving back at the hotel, as we embarked on a long drive back to the airport.

A few months later, I travelled down from Edinburgh to visit Campbell & the guys for the weekend in Nottingham. On the Friday night, Campbell took me down to the white water centre at Holme Pierrepont, then with Rich & Tim supporting from the banks, coached me down the course in one of his kayaks. I say "down the course", I actually mean down the first half of the course...I swam the second half, whilst Campbell chased down the craft from which I had been involuntarily ejected. Great times.

Over the last couple of years, the training squad moved down to the Lee Valley White Water Centre in preparation for the Olympics & have done their gym sessions out of the Athletics Centre here. I've enjoyed seeing them around again & the couple of nights out we have been on...they are great guys & the epitome of true sportsmen, sacrificing a normal life in the quest for success in the sport they love, not for the financial trappings enjoyed in sports like football or rugby.

Yesterday, Campbell announced his retirement from the sport. He had mentioned for a while that this season would be his last & true to his word he is going to pursue new challenges in his life. I am sure it is a loss for all those that have trained with him for so long, as he is the sort of team mate I would have wanted to work with...driven, competitive, committed, yet personable & fun to spend time with. The world of canoe slalom will also miss the regular humble presence of one of the sport's all time legends - you only need look through his list of honours & achievements since 1999 to evaluate his impact on the world stage.

All I can say is, "Well done on all you have achieved, Campbell. The honours are a true reflection of the hard work you have put in over the years & the inspiration you have been to so many will stand the sport in good stead for years to come. You have become a true Scottish legend & made your nation proud! Enjoy the next stage in your life & I am sure that given your approach to everything you do, you will achieve great success in whatever you chose to immerse yourself in next. Keep in touch & let's have a beer to celebrate some time soon!".

To read more about Campbell, click on the link below to explore his website:

For those of you paddlers that are looking to fill the now vacant "legend" spot on the canoe slalom circuit, here is something you might find useful the next time you head into the gym.

Pull exercises are an important component of any shoulder stabilising programme, to protect the joint, whilst also being important for generating the power on the pull phase of paddling. However, I often see some common mistakes when people are doing this type of exercise in the gym, which can lead to overuse injuries or suboptimal movement patterns. The video clip below, from Eric Cressey's site, is a great instructional video of how to avoid making these mistakes & improve your technique.


Eric Cressey is a strength & conditioning coach, based in Boston, MA & has a built a reputation working with a number of professional baseball players. If you are interested in more videos & articles on similar topics, click on the link below to go to Eric's site:

Let me know your thoughts & whether you have any other tips for executing the perfect pull!  Have a great weekend!
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