Young Cherwell Canoe Club paddler, Jessica Sykes, gained promotion to Division 3 at a recent Canoe Slalom competition in Winchester. The sport of Canoe Slalom requires technical ability, speed, stamina and courage, as competitors negotiate a course of gates as quickly as they can. She had a great race, finishing second in a a field of ten paddlers in her category. Following on from her promotion, she competed again at Stafford & Stone Canoe Club this weekend where she raced on moving water, which makes travelling through the gates more difficult. If gates are touched or missed that time penalties are applied. The Blessed George Napier pupil was supported and coached by her father, Matthew, who competed in the sport at international level representing Ireland and Great Britain during his competing career. He just missed out on a place at the Olympics, London 2012, but was selected as a torchbearer. Jessica was keen to learn from her father’s expertise and worked hard, greatly improving her performance and times over the two days of racing, gaining in confidence and ability. She narrowly missed a clear run in her final event. She is now preparing for her next race in a couple of weeks’ time in Bedfordshire, where the competition will be held on an artificial whitewater course.
My last posting on the site was October 2014 about retirement. Now I’m back to write an update for the last six months. I had a massive fit last November. The ambulance took me to A&E at The Horton General Hospital in Oxfordshire. They performed a lot of different tests and the CT scan showed I had a tumour on my brain. I was discharged the following day.
A few days later, the hospital phoned and wanted to see me again to check me over and have another blood test. The doctor explained that he had talked to a Neurosurgeon from John Radcliffe Hospital. They told me that I definitely had a tumour inside the left frontal lobe of the brain.
A few days later I went to John Radcliffe Hospital. The consultant felt positive I had a benign tumour after seeing an MRI scan of my brain and explained about the operation he would perform.
I had the major operation and was discharged in the following days. Again, I was back to John Radcliffe Hospital for my biopsy result. They were pleased to tell me that they had removed a grade 1 benign tumour. I have to go back every 6 months for an MRI scan and check up for up to 5 years.
I made a full recovery just before Christmas. At the time I was told I am not allowed to drive for 6 months and also not allowed to paddle for about a year.
I was planning to raise money for CODA UK and Ireland sometime this year by paddling the 26 miles from Banbury to Oxford. I have to postpone this until next year and I am really disappointed about this, but I have to think of my health first.
Hopefully I will return to light training this winter. I will keep in touch later this year.
After 30 years since I first went in a kayak,
25 years of slalom competitions,
... I am retiring from my pursuit of excellence in canoe slalom.
I started canoeing when I was 10 years old. I entered my first canoe slalom competition in 1985, I didn’t win but came mid way in the results, I was more than happy with that! I’ve worked my way through the different divisions from Division 4 to Premier though the years. I’ve been involved in both the Great Britain U16 and Senior teams, been a part of the England Junior and Senior teams. I’ve had many successes and been the Southern Region Junior Champion, the British Youth Champion and the Eastern Region Senior Champion.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have trained and competed in some great places too – not only around the UK but also in Ireland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Australia.
I made the decision to retire after the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, but in 2010 I was back in my boat training with the aim of competing in the London 2012 Olympics with Ireland team. I missed out by one tenth of a second, qualifying in 4th place – it was an incredible experience.
I’m proud of all my achievements and proud to have been the only professional Deaf Canoeist in the world.
My top 5 canoeing achievements are:
I’m hoping to encourage young Deaf people into canoeing – people from all around the UK and Ireland; coaching would be a great challenge.
My own children have recently begun canoeing and I think I will turn my attentions to coaching – pass my skills onto the next generation.
I’d like to thank the following people for their support of me over the past 25 years. I couldn’t have done it without them –
Brian Fuller, Richard Fox, GB Canoeing, Canoe Slalom Northern Ireland, Canoe Slalom Ireland, Nomad, Peak UK, England Canoe Slalom Team, Cherwell Canoe Club, Manchester Canoe Club, Protues Canoe Club, Paddlesport, West Midland Canoe Centre, FG Wilson, Parkers Promotional, Antrim Council, Cherwell Council, Disability Sport Northern Ireland, Canoe Association of Northern Ireland, Mum, Dad, Martina (my wife), Jim Jayes, Eastern Region Team, Banbury & District Canoe Club, Alan Edge, Ras Dex, etc.
I was interviewed with Malcolm Boyden (BBC Radio Oxford) and Mike Ballinger (Sign Lingual UK Director / BSL English Interpreter) about me, my sport, and being involved in the sport of canoe slalom for over twenty-five years.
Also I mentioned about my Olympic Dream for London 2012 and carrying the Olympic torch in Belfast.
I’ve not posted on the site for the past 2 years and I’ve a lot of catching up to do!
DSPY 2012 – I didn’t go to the Deaf Sports Person of the Year in 2012 and I was disappointed not to have won anything, however I was treated to a surprise Birthday trip away that more than compensated for missing out on an award!
I didn’t paddle for a long time between 2012 and 2014. I experienced a succession of losses, sadly my father passed away, I was made redundant from my job, suffered a shoulder injury and my time was taken up with moving back to England from Ireland. It has taken me a while to feel fit emotionally and physically again.
I am so delighted that I am short listed for Sports Personality of the Year. DSPY Awards will take place on Saturday 17th November 2012
at Ricoh Arena, Coventry.
I will keep you posted after 17th if either I win or not.
See the link below to watch the video about my Olympic Dreams. Filmed by Remark UK.
Hope you enjoy!!
Sorry about the delay. The first World Cup race was held in Cardiff, Wales, the one and only artificial course. It’s a nice little course. Qualification racing was supposed to start last Friday 8th June, but the weather had other ideas. Very strong winds all day made it impossible to race, and the competition was rightly postponed. With a Eurosport live TV slot for the finals booked for late Saturday morning, it was decided that semi-finals would be run early morning and include all competitors. Everyone went through to the semis.
During my semi-final run, I had a big knock back. I did ok at the top part but the bottom part of the course was terrible – my paddle slipped out and I did not get through some gates. I was a bit gutted. My result was 47th but it was my first time competing in the World Cup.
The Germans smashed it, coming 1st (Schubert, 93.0, all the more impressive by the fact the had some bad wind on his run), 3rd (Bockelman) and 5th (Aigner). Also on the podium in 2nd place was semi-final leader Etienne Dialle of France. Those who thought it a surprise that he won the French Olympic spot can now see that it was no fluke!
I’ll update this post with the video and photos of my one and only run of the weekend.
I carried the Olympic Torch last Sunday 3rd June at approximately 8.31am in Dundonald. I was delighted to chosen for the Olympic relay and feel privileged to have been part of this event. I would like to thank Michael Johnston (Ulster Deaf Sport Council Chairman) for his nomination, it was a great experience.
I was surprised as everyone wanted their photograph taken with me with the torch. It was a long day as I had to meet with the other Torch Bearers at 5.30am for security reasons.
See video and photos and I hope you enjoy looking at these.
Just to remind you all, I will be carrying the Olympic Torch this Sunday 3rd June in Dundonald.
I feel honoured that I am one of only 8,000 to have been selected to carry the London 2012 Olympic Torch, especially as I am the only Deaf person to have ever been chosen in Northern Ireland.
It will be a great experience and I am very much looking forward to it.
I will start at approximately at 8.31am and carry the Olympic Flame on A22 near Rockmount to East Link Road. The best place for you to cheer me on is between these points.
Hope to see you there!!!
If you can’t make it, you can see it live on the link below.
I am delighted to have been selected by the Ireland Canoe Slalom Team to paddle in the World Cup in Cardiff (8th June to 10th June 2012).
It will be a fantastic experience for me as I have never paddled in such a big race before in my life!!
Canoe Cardiff 2012 will show the World Class slalom heroes ride in the 300 metres adrenaline-fueled course. With over 38 nations (include 22 Olympian Athletes K1 Men) competing, the International Canoe Federation (ICF) World Cup Series is the most prestigious event in Canoe Slalom and one of the most exciting events.
The website for the 2012 ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup in Cardiff is at
See the link below to watch the video about Irish Olympic Selection Races and Olympic Torch. Sorry, there are no subtitles.
Hope you enjoy!!
I am pleased to have a new sponsorship from Parkers Promo. See the link below for details.
About two weeks ago I was told that I have been selected for the Irish Canoe Slalom Reserve Team this year. There are 5 different World Cup races in Europe. I am hoping to attend 1 or 2 of these races. If not, then I will attend some International races with the team in UK and Europe throughout the year.
The World Master Games will be organised for 2013 in Torino (Turin), Italy. Canoe Slalom is one of the sports and will be based in Ivera. I am looking forward to going. See the link below for details.
The Irish Selection Races were held last weekend in Lucan, near Dublin. This is my second time taking part in these Selection Races. The Irish Canoe Slalom Committee was involved and the race had a good atmosphere with entries from other Irish National paddlers. There were 3 races altogether over this weekend.
Most important to finish in the top 3 Senior paddlers for European Championship and final Olympic Qualifier for London Olympics 2012.
Remark UK, Hands On and BBC NI Newsline, a television/video company, met me there to film and interview me about my selection and Olympic Torch.
Race 1 (Saturday) - I was so nervous as it was such an important race for me. On my first run, I did okay but the water was low and I hit my paddle on the rocks and I had 1 touch (2 seconds penalty). Unfortunely, there was no time so had to do re-run. My re-run was little better and again 1 touch. My 2nd run was much better than the 1st run. Finished 4th for seniors.
Race 2 (Saturday) - There was only 1 run. I had to make sure I made no mistakes or have any touches. I paddled okay producing a faster run with only 1 touch. However, I rolled on gate 9 and wasted time so did not make 3rd place.
Race 3 (Sunday) – This race is included in the Irish Open Championship and final race selection. The slalom course was a bit technical (between gates 3 and 8). I had a sloppy start into my first run, but hit only 1 gate and settled down to have a decent run of 109+2. On my second run, I was aiming to go faster. Unfortunately, my time was 109 plus 3 touches and a Junior paddler had a better run than me. I was happy with this overall result and finished in 4th place again for the seniors. Also I am the new Irish Master Champion again!
Overall, I was disappointed with the low water as I felt it was not good enough as you could not paddle that fast. Finished 4th, that means no Olympic this year but I am still waiting to hear from the selection panels if I am selected for Irish Reserve Team which I hope means I can take part in some of the World Cup Races this year. Good luck to those Senior paddlers who will be going to the European Championship in Germany and also then go forward to take place in the London 2012 Olympics!!
BBC NI Newsline will show the event and hopefully me being interviewed next week.
I have completed the six miles run last Sunday. It was very tough as the weather was hot. My target was to raise a minimum of £50 but I managed to raise £130 for some of the world's poorest countries.
A big thank you to my wife and daguther who joined with me and ran 1 mile for this great case.
I am pleased that Sports Relief has raised over £52 million during the whole weekend.
The Irish Canoe Slalom Selection Races kick off this weekend. There will be 2 races on Saturday and 1 race on Sunday. Only the top 3 senior paddlers will attend the European Championship, 5 different World Cup races and London Olympics 2012. Junior paddlers will be attending the Junior World Championship and Junior European Championship.
In the meantime, there is no Olympic boat for the Irish. There are two more places at the European Championship in Augsburg, Germany. Hope one of our Irish paddlers will book a ticket to London 2012.
Results will be posted this Sunday evening.
Irish Open Championship will take place this Sunday. I hope to win my 2nd time for Irish Master Champions.
I will be running six miles for Sport Relief on 25th March 2012 in Antrim. All money raised will go towards helping some of the world's poorest people. If you would like to support me please click on the link below to find out more information.
The talents and dedication of athletes, sports teams, coaches and sport volunteers in Antrim were celebrated last night (Saturday 25th February) at the annual Antrim Sports Awards.
Over 100 guests, including guest speaker Maeve Kyle OBE (Irish Olympian Athlete) and Paul Michael (Mayor of Antrim) and several of different sponsors congratulated winners at the event held at the Dunadry Hotel, Antrim. Organised by Antrim Sports Advisory Association.
I am delighted that I won the award for Sports Person of the Year with a Disability. I was over the moon!!
I would like to say the big thank you to Michael Johnston (Ulster Deaf Sport Council, Chairman) for nominated.
See photo sections for Sports Awards.
This year’s campaign began last Sunday with my first Irish domestic race of the season on the Inny in Ballymahon, Co. Longford. I was really looking forward to getting back in to competitions again. It is normal not to have raced since October, but I have also done very little in the way of competitive training against the clock this winter, so I was itching to go.
This slalom course was quite good but it had 12 gates (only 3 right upstream). This race was very important before the selection races next month. On my first run, I raced well but picked up a touch at the last gate. My time was 85+2.
In my second run, I was aiming to go faster. I had a bit of wasted time on the 2nd upstream gate as it was very low and difficult to paddle. Also I had another silly touch. My time was 86+2.
One of the Junior paddlers had a better run than me. Racing is far from over; but I’m already quite happy with the way my training is progressing, bar a few errors which I can iron out with more race practise. It's 6 weeks to go before the selection races and I need to focus more and train harder.
See photos section for Inny Slalom Race.
Serious training started last month and will continue throughout the winter months until March 2012. I plan to fly over to England after Christmas and paddle the new Olympic slalom course in Lee Valley, outside London. Then I will go to the new slalom course in Cardiff around February/March to get more practise before the Irish Olympic Qualifying and Team Selection (Race 1) next March. The following week is Race 2 in Lurgan, and Race 3 in Dublin on 31st March or 1st April.
I was delighted to be selected for the Irish team, competing on the newly upgraded Tees Barrage White Water Course in the International (Pan Celtic) Race on 8th October 2011. I was pleased with my performance this year and am aiming to be selected for the full Irish team which will attend the European Championship, World Cups, London Olympics and some international races in 2012.
Have a good Christmas!