Exhausted Flood ready to listen to her body

Published 18 August 2016 (AEDT)

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 17: Naomi Flood of Australia competes in the Women's Kayak Single 500m Heat 4 during Day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Lagoa Stadium on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. © 2016 Getty Images

SPRINT CANOE: If one of Australia’s finest female kayak paddlers Naomi Flood has just one regret looking back over her celebrated career it’s not starting her road to the Olympics earlier.

The two-time Olympian and champion surf lifesaver bowed out of her second Olympic campaign in the semi-finals of the hotly contested women’s K1 500m on Rio’s Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon on Wednesday (August 17).

On a cracking 30-degree day, and in the shadows of Christ The Redeemer, the 30-year-old ironwoman and six-time Australian single ski champion-turned kayaker admitted she was done – her body was telling her  “no more punishment.”

“Once you make the Games you think wow I’m the K1 paddler for Australia. What an achievement,” Flood said. 

“Then you look along the line and you see world championship medallists, Olympic medallists, paddlers who have all been paddling six, seven, eight years.

“They have all been to three, four Olympics; this is my second major regatta in K1, the first one was 2011.

“For me at the moment I’m exhausted; it’s my 16th year as a full-time athlete; the elbow is breaking down on me, there are a few issues with the body; it has given me the awareness that (my) time is done,” Flood said disappointed, declaring her career was just about done.

Still, she would never say never.

“I am stoked I made the transition from surf (lifesaving) to kayaks but in hindsight I wish I had done it earlier.

“I have created some great friendships, some of my best friends I have met in kayaking, both internationals and Australians, and having had the opportunity to represent my country has been amazing.

“Sport is all I have known for 16 years of my life and I’m stoked with what I have achieved…obviously you want to go better you want to go faster; have more of a presence.

“Coming off the back of London that’s what I wanted; Rio was where I wanted to make more of a presence and I beat a couple of people.

“I have had a good season for me, that’s all I could do out there today; I am disappointed and it is what it is.

“I left my run a little late but where I came from this season I am happy to have turned it around; I have paddled K2 for the last few years and it’s pretty hard to all of a sudden race K1; you train K1 a lot but racing it is different.

“I always get to the event and ask myself if maybe ‘I could’ve or I should’ve?’ you have those questions ‘could I have done something different? Should I have done this? I think this spurs you on to go again,” said Flood.

And the future?

“I won’t be paddling next year; I can pretty much guarantee that; beyond that I might miss it and pine to come back to the kayak,” said Flood.

“But this journey been unreal…full of so many curveballs thrown at me and I need a break for myself and to figure out what I do want to do.”

Flood will return home to the Gold Coast to continue her role as the Head Women’s water coach with Northcliffe SLSC and try and make a difference working with the girls on the Coast.

And her message to any budding Naomi Floods in Australia?

“Get in and get involved; the worst that’s going to happen for the girls in the surf clubs that want to kayak is that your ski leg is going to improve,” Flood said.

“To travel the world and meet people like we do…and go to the places like Rio. It’s bizarre where you end up with your family and friends who get to travel the world…why not…you’ve nothing to lose….and you get to represent your country..it doesn’t get any better than that.”

You get the feeling that even though her paddle is now in the rack, one day Naomi Flood just might return to the fold and bring the next generation along for the ride.

Ian Hanson


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