Olympic sprint canoeist Jon Schofield says that he and K2 partner Liam Heath will be going for gold at the Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The 31-year-old believes that competition on the water is tighter than ever but the Sawley athlete is determined to eclipse the bronze medal finish on Dorney Lake in London four years ago.
The Team GB pair had silver swiped from their grasp on the line by fast-finishing Belarus duo Raman Piatrushenka and Vadzim Makhneu in 2012 while Yury Postrigay and Alexander Dyachenko stormed to victory.
“I’m seriously enjoying it,” said Schofield. “Racing has got tighter than it was before London so it’s quite exciting and motivating to be involved in at the moment.
“All we’re going to Rio to try and do is win because we’ve got a bit of unfinished business from London even though we were quite happy with it. It’s nice to be selected because now we know that we’ve got the opportunity to challenge for the gold in Rio.
“Any time you race against the best guys in the world you’re aiming for the top and that means, ultimately, that you have to beat them.
“We’ve got an Olympic medal, become Olympians, and now the only improvement would be to become Olympic champions. That’s what we both want.”
Preparations for Brazil began with a seventh placed finish at the first World Cup event in Duisburg, Germany, though they were only 0.719 seconds behind Spanish champions Saul Craviotto and Cristian Toro.
Schofield and Heath then secured bronze in Racice, Czech Republic, finishing half-a-second down on the winners, Germany’s Tom Liebscher and Ronald Rauhe. Silver went to Maxime Beaumont and Sébastien Jouve of France.
“It’s been good,” Schofield said. “We’ve competed in two World Cup races this year. We finished third in one and seventh in the other.
“It was the first one that we finished seventh in and it was an incredibly tight race. Anyone could’ve been on or off the podium.
“The second time we executed things a lot better and we got the bronze.
“There are still quite a few improvements that we can make heading in to Rio.
“We’re kind of in the middle of it but we definitely need to up our game if we want to win.”
Schofield added: “I guess the fastest people coming out of those races were the Spanish and the Germans but I would say that there are eight crews going to the Olympics that are capable of achieving a podium finish.
“It’s just too tight to single anybody out these days and it’s not like 2012 when the Russians were a long way ahead of everyone else. It’s much more mixed up now and it’s all about who has the best day.”
Schofield (K2 200m), one of six sprint athletes to have been named by the British Olympic Association (BOA)to represent Team GB alongside Heath, Jess Walker (K1 200m & K4 500m), Louisa Gurski (K4 500m), Rachel Cawthorn (K1 500m & K4 500m) and Rebeka Simon (K4 500m), will now continue training hard before moving to the holding camp in Belo Horizonte.
From there, the serene beauty of Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas awaits.
“We don’t have any more racing from now until the Games,” he said. “My partner (Liam Heath) is racing in the singles in the European Championships but for the K2 we decided that we’re going to keep on just training straight through to the Games.
“With two weeks to go we’ll then move in to the Team GB holding camp in Belo Horizonte. We’ll then move in to Rio around three or four days before the racing starts.
“In some ways the conditions could be quite similar to our lakes here from day to day.
“We train on the Olympic course all the time and there’s a bit of a side wind which is similar to what we’re expecting in Rio. We’ve actually got quite a good set up to get us used to the conditions out there.
“Having said that, the water is salty in Rio which is a big difference.”
The canoe sprint programme is scheduled to begin on Monday, August 15th.