OLYMPIC medal hopeful Jon Schofield warmed up for London 2012 by winning gold in the K2 200m alongside partner Liam Heath at the European Canoe Sprint Championships.
The dynamic duo retained their crown for the third year in succession on Lake Jarun in Zagreb, Croatia, beating German pairing Ronald Rauhe and Jonas Ems by the finest of margins, with just 0.00184 separating them.
Poland’s Sebastian Szypula and Dawid Putto beat world champions France (Arnoud Hybois and Sebastien Jouve) for third spot.
It was the perfect race and result for Schofield and Heath in their bid to fine-tune their preparations for the Olympics, with the canoe sprint schedule starting on August 6th.
“It was a very close race and pretty tough going,” said the Sawley kayaker.
“Everyone else is getting a little bit better, a little bit faster and they’re getting a lit bit closer but we’re happy to get our noses in front of everyone.
“When we were at the regatta, we grew increasingly determined to retain our title.
“Once you’ve got it you obviously want to keep it.
“Our ambition put us under a bit more pressure, but we’ve picked up all our best results in the biggest races.
“We can take a lot of heart from the fact that we’ve ticked another big race off. Hopefully we’ll respond in the same manner at the Olympics.
“The gold medal means a lot and retaining our crown is a fantastic achievement. It feels really special and it’s come at the perfect time really. Now there’s only one thing for us to focus on.”
Schofield will spend another three weeks moulding his trade on the man-made Olympic home of British flat-water canoeing, Eton’s Lake Dorney, the destination where he’ll be vying for another, yet more lucrative, gold medal.
From there he’ll relocate to Caversham Lake in Berkshire, before embarking on a training camp in Barcelona.
Then he’ll return for the biggest, most prestigious competitive race of his life.
“There’s still a few things we can work on that weren’t perfect and there’s still plenty of time for us to improve physically,” Schofield said.
“We expect our competitors to be faster as well so we need to be prepared for that. We need to match them at least.
“That gold medal reinforces that we are the most consistent crew around and that stands us in good stead. We don’t need to worry about what everyone else is going to do.”