Olympic medalists take to the River Avon at Warwick

Racing Club Juniors from the Royal Leamington Spa Canoe Club.
Racing Club Juniors from the Royal Leamington Spa Canoe Club.

Olympic medalists and world-class rowers have been invited to compete in an exhibition race on the River Avon next Saturday to launch Warwick’s inaugural Sprint Regatta.

The event has been organised by paddlers at the Royal Leamington Spa Canoe Club whose racing section is coached by Attila Herbent.

Mr Herbent said: “We’re hoping the Sprint will become an annual event and have invited kayak athletes like Olympic 200 metre gold medalist Ed McKeever, bronze medalists Jonny Schofield and Liam Heath and 500 metre world cup winners Rachel Cawthorn and Lani Belcher.”

Attila added: “The regatta is on October 4 and spectators will be able to view the races from St Nicholas Park, in the area close to Warwick Boats, or from the opposite bank in Myton Fields.

“As well as being a great family day out we also hope to attract more youngsters into the sport.

“We already have a highly successful junior racing team in Leamington but are now looking to add more eight to 11-year-old boys and girls.”

The racing starts at 10.30am with the finals held between 1pm and 4.30pm.

The kayak stars should be in the water from 12.30 and then be around to chat to fans.

Ed McKeever won his gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games and also holds two medals in the ICF Canoe Sprint World Champions in Poznan along with a gold in the K-1 200 metres in Szeged in 2011.

Liam Heath and Jon Schofield rounded off the most successful Olympic Games that British canoeing has ever enjoyed when they won bronze in the kayak double 200 metres final, while Lani Belcher and Rachel Cawthorn won Great Britain’s first international gold medal of the season in the women’s K2 500 metre event at the ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup.

Already more than 100 adult and child paddlers from other canoe clubs have registered to compete including some travelling from Germany for the occasion.

One of the children’s parents, Paul Darnell, is setting up some photo-finish timing equipment to ensure accuracy of results.

Warwick and Leamington MP Chris White, who has promised to attend the regatta, said: “What a fantastic and inspiring event this will be and on a fabulous stretch of the river in Warwick.”

* The RLS Canoe Club headquarters are just off Adelaide Road, Leamington, CV32 5AH.