Olympic Canoe and Kayak team announced

The 2012 Australian Olympic Canoe/Kayak Sprint team announced today has it all. The 16-strong team boasts a defending Olympic Champion, World Championship medallists, a champion ironwoman, a British-born mother, and the youngest sprint canoeists to ever represent Australia at the Games.

The announcement takes the Australian Team size to 97, representing around one quarter of the Team expected to compete at the London Olympic Games from July 27- August 12. And the kayak action set to unfold at the Eton Dorney course, also home to Olympic rowing, could deliver a gold rush for Australia.

Sprint kayaking has exploded since Australia won a record three medals at the 2008 Olympic Games.

“We had a very good Games in Beijing and we are looking to repeat that in London,” Australian Canoeing High Performance Manager Richard Fox said.

Spearheading the women’s medal hopes is Perth paddler Alana Nicholls. The 26-year-old was one of many Aussies to just miss a medal in 2011, coming equal fourth in the K1 200m and fifth in the K1 500m at the World Championships in Hungary – her two Olympic events.

“I finished those races and I was quite disappointed I wasn’t on the podium. Straight away I thought, wow, I really do have a chance here,” Nicholls said of her first World Championship campaign.

The rising star quickly became accustomed to success on London’s Eton Dorney course, winning gold in the K1 500m at the Olympic Test Event last September.

Across the four women’s events Hannah Davis and Lyndsie Fogarty are the only women remaining from the 2008 campaign. They lead the K4 500m crew inspired to improve on their Beijing Olympic bronze.

“To come home with the bronze in Beijing was just amazing and we want to match that if not go one or two better in London,” Davis said.

“You are always aspiring to that gold and we won’t make a lie of it, we’re setting our sights on it. We think we can do it and with the progress we’re making I think we’re on the right path.”

Davis and Fogarty are joined in the K4 by Sydney’s Jo Brigden-Jones – one of the world’s best paddlers before a serious shoulder injury stopped her from competing, and by 34-year-old mother of two Rachel Lovell. Injury and pregnancy prevented her from competing in 2004 and 2008 respectively, and now Lovell, who formerly paddled for Great Britain, heads back to her old training course aiming for gold.

Fogarty also combines with champion ironwoman Naomi Flood in the K2 500m, meaning Australia will be represented in every women’s boat at the Games.

Flood has been phenomenal since switching  her focus from surf lifesaving to kayaking “for a new challenge,” and nothing can compare to what she expects in London.

“It’s a massive step above anything I’ve been involved in,” the 2009 Ironwoman Series Champion said.

“I think it’s going to be the biggest show on earth, full of all the familiar faces you see on TV across a wide variety of sports. Just to be in there in the mix with them, being involved in the Olympic Movement is so exciting. I just can’t wait.”