Local Aberuthven woman, Natasha Pottinger (20), is preparing for another summer of intense training and competing as she sets her sights on making the top 6 in the under 23 age category in the GB Canoe Slalom team selection for 2020.
For those who are unsure of what this fast-paced, thrilling sport is all about, this is the description given by their offical website:
"Struggling against powerful roaring waters, eddies, swirls and stoppers; Canoe Slalom sees athletes battling the forces of pure nature. For many, Canoe Slalom is the ultimate challenge; a gruelling test of speed, agility and precision with all the excitement of whitewater rapids. Canoe Slalom translates brilliantly to the TV screen, and for spectators who are close to the river, the thrills are intense"
Natasha, who is currently ranking sixth in Scotland, was first introduced to the sport via her school club when she was just 13. Since then, she has gone from keen hobbyist to performance sportswoman, making the 2017-2018 selection for the Scottish performance squad. Last year, she finished 9th at the UK senior national ranking race in Teesside.
“Training with the Scottish squad was my first experience of a performance environment and it definitely taught me what’s necessary to be a top level athlete. I now train two sessions a day with one day off a week. A typical week will consist of three gym sessions, one run, two flat water conditioning sessions, two performance delivery sessions on the white water and three technique sessions on the white water.
Training with the Scottish squad was my first experience of a performance environment and it definitely taught me what’s necessary to be a top level athlete“People often don’t realise the significance of strength and conditioning gym training for a sport like slalom, but being powerful is hugely important in order to accelerate the boat quickly through the water.”
Natasha tells us this is key to the incredibly fast sport of Slalom Canoeing, which sees competitors race along the rapids – either naturally occurring as they are on the Tay, or man-made especially for the sport - of a river.
“Negotiating a fast moving river in different directions takes a lot of stamina and power - courses are only around two minutes long, but they are intense work! If we miss a gate a 50 second penalty is added, if we hit a gate a 2 second penalty is added. A 50 second penalty usually puts you out of the running so you need to be able to stay focused, while working hard.”
Like most amateur performance sports people, Natasha also has a ‘day job’, and she is currently studying veterinary medicine at the University of Glasgow. During term time she’s based at pinkston water sports centre but when’s she’s at home, she trains outdoors at various sites on the Tay.
Her main focus at the moment is to reach the Olympic selection event in London 2019 which takes place during Easter Weekend 2019, and after this she’ll be pushing herself through two high-quality week-long training camps this summer, one in France and the other in Krakow and Prague.
“I enjoy pushing myself and trying to perform the best I can. The challenge of learning new techniques, hitting a pb in the gym or performing well at a race gives me the motivation to train hard. I’m naturally competitive so I really enjoy training with other people so we can all help motivate and push each other. It’s a very unique exciting sport and has given me so many opportunities.”
Natasha is part of the Live Active Leisure Talented Athlete Scheme, and is supported with free access to local facilities including the strength and conditioning gym at Bell’s Sports Centre.
Together with Sportscotland and the Tayside & Fife Institute of Sport, Live Active Leisure works in developing the additional needs of high achieving athletes in the area.
These are the young athletes who demonstrate the skill and commitment required to represent Scotland and Great Britain on an international stage. Live Active Leisure’s Talented Athletes’ Scheme supports these young people by providing assistance and free access to their venues.
This enables them to reach their full potential and to achieve world class performance levels. This is about nurturing and developing our local talent by helping these young athletes train and grow in the support network of their home towns and city. By doing this, they hope to inspire other youngsters in Perth and Kinross and to bring that real sense of achievement a city embraces when celebrating the success of one of their own.
Gregor Miller is a young judo champion from Perth, who is currently training for the UK National Cadet Competitions in December 2019.
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