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Great Britain’s Romford girls claim World Rafting Championship medals

PUBLISHED: 12:00 28 October 2017

A hairy moment in the slalom for the British under-19 girls

A hairy moment in the slalom for the British under-19 girls

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Emily and the other silver ladies celebrate trip of a lifetime on Japanese rapids

The GB under-19 girls rafting team The GB under-19 girls rafting team

Collier Row youngster Emily Smith returned from a trip of a lifetime in Japan clutching a spectacular silver medal, but it could have been very different for the 16-year-old.

Smith actually dislocated her knee in training for the World Rafting Championships, but incredibly she was able to pop it back in, miss only one training session and compete with the rest of her team.

That GB team included fellow Romford athletes Katie Pidgeon and Lorna Childs, current and former Frances Bardsley students, as well as three others, and the team had an adventure of a lifetime.

“It was brilliant,” said Emily, who goes to Bower Park Academy and lives in Collier Row.

The British raftng team in Japan The British raftng team in Japan

“I have been saying since I came back that I just want to go there again and how much I miss it.

“It was such a beautiful place and so different, it was like nothing I had seen before.

“The people were so friendly and welcoming and the sport is taken so seriously out there – there were people asking for our autographs!”

Obviously there was a serious side to the trip, which the girls had to pay for themselves to get there, but for Emily it almost didn’t happen.

The GB junior girls rafting team at the World Championships on the Yoshimon River The GB junior girls rafting team at the World Championships on the Yoshimon River

“I managed to dislocate my knee while I was there,” she revealed. “It has happened before and I managed to pop it back in and carry on, otherwise we would not have been able to compete as we had no substitutes there.”

The World Championships, which were held on the Yoshino River in Miyoshi City, Japan, have four disciplines – the sprint, the head-to-head, the slalom and the downriver race, the most gruelling of all.

“We didn’t know what to expect from the other teams, but when we saw them we noticed that they were a little faster than us, but that technically we were as good, if not better than them,” said Emily.

And so to the action as they took on teams from Russia, New Zealand and Indonesia as well as hosts Japan.

GB under-19 ladies in the head to head race at the World Championships GB under-19 ladies in the head to head race at the World Championships

After finishing fourth in the sprint, their great moment came in the head-to-head races.

“We took on Japan and beat them and then we took on New Zealand in the final,” said Emily proudly. “It was a really close race and we just missed out, but it gave us silver medals in the event.”

They followed that by finishing fifth in the slalom, where penalty points cost them dear.

“If you hit a gate it cost you five penalties and if you missed one altogether it was a 50-point penalty. It was really difficult and you had to be really strong and in the end we just had too many of them.”

The girls under-19 GB team at the World rafting championships The girls under-19 GB team at the World rafting championships

The finale to the championships was the toughest event – the downriver race.

“It was really hard, with some really tough rapids, but it certainly helped to have trained at the Lee Valley White Water Centre,” she said.

“It was over 4k and by the end we were shattered.”

It seems to have been worth the 20 hours of travelling to get there and the girls are already thinking about the next World Championships in Australia in 2019.

Before that there is the Europeans in Slovakia next year, but that is something a little different.

“For the Europeans there is only four of us in the raft instead of six, so we will have to fight for a place,” said Emily.

“It is a shame to split us up, we have made such a good team together, but that is the way it works in that.

“Japan was an incredible trip though. I loved every minute of it. We made so many friends and we would love to go back there.”

*Don’t miss next week’s Recorder for a special report on Romford’s Henry Burke who was part of the GB under-19 men’s team and came back with a clutch of medals.

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