Ieuan James showed sensational form in 2017

Ieuan James' 2020 vision

Canoeing teen targets Tokyo 2020 place after European and world title success

Ieuan James has set his sights on competing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games after what he describes as a "near perfect" year.

The 18-year-old canoeist made a massive breakthrough in June when he won gold in the K1 200m event at the European Junior Championships in Belgrade, becoming the first Scot to do so.

The teenager, from Blackford in Edinburgh, then went on to claim Britain’s first world junior canoe sprint title for 22 years with gold in the K1 200m event at the World Junior Championships in Pitesti, Bulgaria, a stellar leap from his sixth place the previous year.

A fitting finalist

Ieuan’s year continued to improve with the news that he had been named as a finalist for the Young Sports Personality of the Year award at the 2017 Sunday Mail sportscotland Scottish Sports Awards on December 7.

The Forth Canoe Club member is still coming to terms with his breakthrough onto the international scene, but says his recent results have given him the belief that his dream of a place at Tokyo 2020 could become a reality.

He said: “What I’ve managed to achieve this year is still sinking in now, if I’m being honest. The awards night will be another part of that. I hadn’t really realised what I had done at the time.

“I feel like I met my ambitions, I’m not sure where I felt reality would lie within those ambitions. I’d never really thought that it would happen, I just trained as if it was going to.

“Looking back on it I had an incredible year, nearly everything went perfectly for me. But at the time it was just a case of keeping my head down and trying to stay focused.

“Before this year I spoke about Tokyo as something that I would love to get to and now I’m seeing it as a real possibility and that’s the real difference.

"I honestly feel like I have the belief to make that step.

“For kayaking the qualification process is actually brutal. It doesn’t help that the Olympic champion [Liam Heath] is British. It makes qualifying a bit trickier for me, I would have to be essentially in the world top 10 by 2019 to make it.

“It’s not out of reach at all, especially after the progress I made this year.”

Ieuan is now training full-time in GB’s performance programme in Nottingham. He hailed the impact Forth Canoe Club, which is supported by sportscotland's National Lottery direct club investment fund, has had on his flourishing career.

He also praised the high-level facilities at the Edinburgh Climbing Centre, which gave him a taste of the high-performance environment that now surrounds him in Nottingham, enabling him to continually strive for improvement.

Ieuan recalled: “At my primary school they were running an after-school sports club with the local canoe club. That was when I was about 10. I signed up for a term; by the end of that term I was so in love with it that I joined the canoe club. It just took off from there.

“There is a really good set-up at the Climbing Centre at Ratho. We had access to a gym, strength and conditioning coaches, warm showers and access to the water and boat storage.

“That was a really high-performance environment which made it really easy to go out and train.

“It’s going really well in Nottingham. I’m part of the senior crew boat process now. As well as the singles I would have a chance to qualify for Tokyo in the team event.

“Over the winter I’ll be part of the selection process with the other seniors for that, which is very exciting.”

Find out more

The Sunday Mail sportscotland Scottish Sports Awards will celebrate the inspirational clubs, schools and individuals in sport on 7 December at the Doubletree by Hilton in Glasgow. For more information please visit the website.

If you are interested in canoeing and want to know more, visit the Canoe Scotland website.

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