Stafford and Stone Canoe Club keeps the Olympic Fire Burning
No one can deny that the London 2012 Olympic Games were a great success.
Not only did the games provide a spectacular two weeks of sport and drama, but also a much-needed boost to national morale thanks to the sterling efforts of team GB, not to mention an army of volunteers that helped make the games possible.
As the Olympic flame was slowly extinguished in last week's closing ceremony, there is the lasting legacy of the games to bear in mind, to keep the flame burning for sport in the hearts and minds of children and adults across the country.
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An Olympic level canoeist, that's what!
Built alongside the Trent beside Westbride Park in Stone, the Stafford & Stone Canoe Club boasts a grand history raising 6 Olympic level canoeists in the past.
It is a roster that includes Laura Blakeman who competed in Sidney 2000, and most recently in London 2012, Lizzie Neave.
Lizzie made headlines astounding everybody as she placed second in the first heat of Canoe Slalom before unluckily losing out in the semi finals.
Upon arriving at the club, a large banner hangs upon the club house "Thanks for Supporting Lizzie" which is adorned with numerous union jacks.
Meanwhile, out on the river, father Andy Neave practices with a new recruit who has been directly inspired to get involved after watching the games.
"It's not for me to say that kids have got to take up canoeing, they've got to find something that's right for them", says Andy.
"It might be canoeing, it might be athletics and that maybe the real challenge going forward after the Olympics."
Andy's day job is teaching at the outdoor education centre in Shugborough, in addition, he teaches juniors here at Stone in the evenings and the weekends.
Next month marks thirty years since Andy started teaching at the club.
After all these years what is the appeal of canoeing?
Put simply, it is the sheer variety the sport offers. From canoe polo, to canoe sprints on more open water, the sport offers different variations for a broad audience.
"Some people may just want to go off down the canal, some people don't want to go anywhere near white water, but here [at SSCC] it is very much competition canoeing.
Andy is just back from volunteering at the Olympics, where he was part of the Field to Play Team, which involved preparing the canoe courses for each event and judging the event as it took place, relaying pivotal information back to HQ.
To be a part of the Olympics was obviously an honour:
"The atmosphere and the support for Team GB was just incredible… it was just a tremendous success".
Obviously, training professionally is a massive commitment for one to take.
"In Lizzie's case, most days leading into the Olympics would include four days with two sessions, two days with one session and one complete rest day.
As for beginners, the Stafford & Stone Canoe Club provides a friendly and safe atmosphere to try out competitive canoeing.
Trentham Canoe Club also offers more open water training.
Eventually, those who do decide to take the sport more seriously will eventually out grow the facilities and move on to the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham, and perhaps later the Lee Valley in Herefordshire, where Lizzie is currently based.
Looking towards the near future, the club are looking forward to the Canoe Slalom championships taking place in Solkan, Slovenia later in September.
A total of seven competitors in the championships all started out at Stafford and Stone Canoe Club.
Names like Greg Pitt and Natalie Wilson may become more well known, especially with the prospect of Rio 2016 looming in the future.
As for Lizzie, she goes off to compete in the last two races of the World Cup.
Though she hasn't made any decisions about Rio 2016 as of yet, her father maintains that most canoeists peak later on in their early thirties.
As for today, out on the river is 9 year old George Harrett proudly demonstrating the eskimo roll, a manoever that involves the canoeist rolling the vessel 360 degrees sideways.
For some, the idea of voluntarily rolling your vessel may seem alarming, but George is able to perform a grand total of 4 eskimo rolls effortlessly.
"What are we thinking George? You'll be ready for the 2024 games I should think", says Andy jokingly.
For now, the Stafford & Stone Canoe Club keeps the Olympic Fire alive.
To get involved with Stafford & Stone Canoe Club, check with their website: http://www.staffordandstonecc.co.uk
Are you part of a sports club that you feel needs spotlighting in the wake of the Olympics. Phone Charlie Phair 07703986628