Elite Canoe and Rafting Duo Head Up 2012 White Water Venue
A former International Kayaker and the Captain of the Great Britain Senior Men’s White Water Rafting team have been appointed to run the Lee Valley White Water Centre, the world’s leading white water venue.
Simon Ricketts and Paskell Blackwell, manager and assistant manager respectively, will oversee the only brand new London 2012 venue to open to the public ahead of the Games in April 2011. They are joined by assistant manager, Calum Ferris-Lay who brings with him a wealth of experience from the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham.
Simon has been involved in Canoeing since the age of nine and began competing in Canoe Sprint and Canoe Marathon competitions at 12, picking up his first National Medal just a year later. He continued to compete in the junior ranks and was selected to represent Great Britain during the 1989 season, gaining selection for the Junior World Championships held in Canada later that year. He began his professional career as a lifeguard at Coventry Sports Centre and represented Great Britain in the Men's Kayak category in the Junior Canoe Sprint events.
Paskell Blackwell has been competing for the British Rafting Team for six years and has been their Captain for the last four. During that time, the team has risen from 15th in the world rankings to third and won their first gold medal at the world championships in Bosnia in 2009.
Lee Valley White Water Centre opens in April 2011 and has two separate courses—a 300m competition-standard course and a 160m training course, perfect for sports development. Uniquely, visitors will be able to get their adrenalin fix by rafting and canoeing the rapids on the courses ahead of the Olympians.
Simon says: “There will be a huge wave of enthusiasm around London 2012 and my job is to capitalise on this to encourage thousands of people to try paddle sports and experience the thrill of white water rafting. This will be the best centre of its type anywhere in the world – guaranteed white water with two separate courses, creating a brand new rafting attraction. I want to ensure that Lee Valley White Water Centre gives people across the UK great white water rafting fun and let them experience first hand what the sports of canoeing, kayaking and rafting have to offer. To come full circle and manage a world class venue is an incredible achievement. This job allows me to continue my links with the sport and manage a centre which will deliver one of the most watched sports in the London 2012 programme.”
Simon continues to compete in the masters divisions in both Canoe Sprint and Canoe Marathon disciplines and is a volunteer coach at his local canoe club. He is married with two daughters.
Paskell became involved in water sports during his university years in Bangor, running the rapids and rivers of the north Wales area and spending a season in Iceland. He became a member of the British Canoe Freestyle squad in 2007 and headed out to the World Championships in Canada.
“It has been an immense honour to be a part of the team representing Great Britain. Hearing the national anthem being played for us is something I will never forget. I look forward to being able to compete at a home world championships right here at the Lee Valley White Water Centre.”
He was appointed the head raft guide and site duty manager at the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham in 2009.
Paskell says: “As an athlete involved within the industry, the London 2012 Games are a massive draw; the opportunity to work within a brand new, state of the art, custom-built facility is one that cannot be matched anywhere in the world. As a rafter and a kayaker I will be very excited to see the rapids we can create with the centre’s movable rapid block system. We’re creating a unique sports attraction which gives pleasure to a range of water sports users from different disciplines and with different experience levels.”
Lee Valley Regional Park will ensure Lee Valley White Water Centre is used by a huge mix of people, from those new to white water, to medal-winning athletes and future hopefuls. There’ll also be extensive community use, outreach and sports development programmes. The centre is one of four London 2012 venues Lee Valley Regional Park Authority will run after the Games, including the VeloPark and Hockey and Tennis Centres. The Lee Valley White Water Centre will join the other regional sports venues the Authority owns to create a chain of sporting excellence along the 26 mile long, 10,000 acre Lee Valley Regional Park.