Para Canoeing – Matthew Baines
“When I was born, I was born with a disability called Cerebral Palsy, which affects my core stability and balance. When I started to go to physio my physiotherapist was called Julie Lowe. She was the coach of a canoe sprint team called Newark 4A’s. When I was eight years old, I went to Holme Pierrepoint for the first time and I remember getting out and thinking “Oh dear it really was cold.” but I still watched my first race. I wasn’t overly impressed with the rowing but I thought why not give it a go? Julie said “Right I’ve got you a boat, let’s get you in.” it so I did.
“From then on I started training, the first two years were a struggle but I enjoyed it. I didn’t like water being splashed in my face so my Dad got me some safety glasses from his work. Also I was only small and when I got two races because the sport wasn’t very popular, so I was up against 14-21 year olds, which as you can imagine was quite scary.
“When I was 14, I remember hearing people talking and saying they thought I was quite good at Para Canoe sprinting and maybe I was one to come up through the ranks. So I just started to do fewer and fewer rowing marathons to see what happened when I was canoe sprinting.
“A year later I was told they were sending me to my first international events which was supposed to be the European Junior sprint championship but when we got there it seemed I have got the wrong message and I was actually at European Senior championships. This made me the youngest person ever to compete at a senior competition (usually you have to be 18). When I got there, I got through to the 200m and 500m finals. ”When I was young, canoe sprinting wasn’t my favourite sport but the more I did it, the more I fell in love with it. I love the competition and how it works. Over the past couple of years, this sport has become my life, I train every day whatever the weather and I never regret it. My ultimate goal is the Paralympics in 2016.”