Olympic bronze medalist Jon Schofield admits the competition for honours is intensifying after losing his European crown.
The Sawley star, alongside K2 200m partner Liam Heath, went in to the European Canoe Sprint Championships in Montemor-o-Velho in Portugal looking for their fourth successive title but instead the pair endured a rare podium absence.
After finishing in the top three in their last 14 international races - a record that has stretched over three years - the duo fell agonisingly behind the Russian, German and French crews in the final.
London 2012 victors Yury Postrygay and Alexander Dyachenko continued their domination of the discipline, usurping Schofield and Heath at the top with a time of 00.31.994. German stalwart Ronald Rauhe and Jonas Ems finished in the runner-up spot while Sebastien Jouve and Maxime Beaumont edged the British pairing out of third by an aperture of 00.190.
“We’re gutted that we haven’t retained our title,” said Schofield. “It’s just one of those things but we’ve learnt a lot from the experience. We’ve won a lot of races and picked up a lot of medals recently but sometimes it doesn’t go to plan.
“It was a shock but after 14 consecutive podium finishes it kind of takes the pressure off us a bit. We don’t have that record to uphold anymore so we can go again. We’ve got to keep this result in perspective and use it to move forward and improve.”
Schofield added: “Our competitors had improved and we weren’t good enough on the day. We were slightly unlucky with the lane draw as well with the sidewind that hit us. The Russians were as super strong and consistent as they have been recently and other crews are starting to find their feet.
“It’s making things a lot more competitive because people are performing to a higher standard. It makes racing really exciting and I’m enjoying being a part of it. It’s a great advertisement for the sport and there’s a whole host of crews believing they can finish in the medal positions now.”
Schofield and Heath now have 11 weeks to fine tune their preparations for the World Championships in Duisburg, Germany. The duo will continue to polish their form at Eton’s Lake Dorney before embarking on a training camp in Bulgaria just before the competition.
“We’ll go out there and race to win as we always do,” Schofield said. “We know what we’ve got to improve and we’re determined to win it because the World Championships are really important to us. We desperately want to reach the ultimate goal of becoming world champions.”