Last Updated: July 30, 2011 5:48pm
Florence: Games getting closer
Britain's top canoe slalom racers are relishing the prospect of the London 2012 Olympic Games after sampling the sport's official test event on Saturday.
Beijing silver medallist David Florence, Athens runner-up Campbell Walsh and World Championship bronze medallist Richard Hounslow said the ongoing four-day dress rehearsal at the new Lee Valley White Water Centre had whetted their appetite.
"There are reminders all the time that it's getting closer and closer," C1 specialist Florence said.
Florence's C2 (two-seater) partner Hounslow, who is also aiming to qualify in the K1 (kayak) class, added: "Going up the conveyor belt there at the start, you get to the top and you imagine thousands of people sitting up there.
"It definitely drives you on, gives you that little buzz and makes you want to push that bit harder."
Walsh, who came agonisingly close to Olympic K1 gold seven years ago, said: "I'd love to be an Olympic champion. That's a fantastic-sounding thing you can put to your name or be introduced as."
The £31million Lee Valley centre was the first brand new London 2012 venue to be completed in December.
Team GB immediately relocated to the Hertfordshire site from their Nottingham base, while it was opened to the general public in April.
It contains a 300-metres competition course, on which flows 15 cubic metres of water per second.
Florence, Hounslow and Walsh, who were all in action on Saturday, described it as one of the toughest in the world.
Florence, 28, compared it to the course in Beijing, saying: "They're both huge, with very exciting, fast white water.
"It's a brilliant venue, brilliant place to train and I think it'll be a great spectacle next year for the Games."
Hounslow, 29, added: "It's one of the hardest courses in the world to paddle on.
"You ask any of the international people who have just come over here and they say it's a great course, great fun, but it is very hard.
"All week, people have been training, saying, 'Ooh, my arms are hurting'."
Walsh, 33, hoped the venue provided a lasting legacy for the sport.
"It's a case of waiting and seeing just how it all pans out," he said.
"But to have this facility for holding major events - we've got the World Championships already for 2015 - that's really great to have on home water."
It was decided not to open the test event to the general public, although 120 young people from Hertfordshire and Essex were given the chance to attend.
The venue will accommodate 12,000 spectators during the Games, with temporary grandstands to be erected.
Florence, Hounslow and Walsh are all desperate to give them something to cheer about, however they need to qualify first - with only one spot available per country in each class.
The Olympic selection period begins at September's World Championships in Slovakia and ends the following April.
Florence, who won gold at last month's World Cup meeting in Slovenia, said: "Next spring will be the big one because that'll be where you find out if you're actually going to race the Games or not.
"Then it'll really come at us.
"I've had really good results lately and pretty happy with the way things are going."
Hounslow, for whom London would be a first Olympics, said: "There are some world champions out there who have never been to the Olympics."
Both he and Walsh are competing for the one K1 spot, with the latter saying: "We both want that one spot."
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