Canoeing ace Burgess: an Olympic Games with no fans a shot in the arm to my podium chances

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Slalom star Burgess, 28, says the prospect of a behind closed doors Olympics is not inhibiting his excitement
Slalom star Burgess, 28, says the prospect of a behind closed doors Olympics is not inhibiting his excitement

Buoyant Adam Burgess believes a behind closed doors Tokyo 2020 is a massive boost to the medal chances of every Olympic debutant, writes Will Jennings.

Stone star Burgess officially booked his place on the plane to Japan this week as he was selected in Team GB’s four-strong canoe slalom squad.

Burgess will make his Games bow in the C1 event where he will bid to build on his team silver in the format at the 2017 World Championships.

Crowds, friends and family will be absent in Japan but Burgess, a former Junior, Under-23 and European champion, says that suits him just fine as he guns for debut glory in the Tokyo water.

The 29-year-old said: “As a first time Olympian, not having the crowds is probably an advantage.

“There's no pre-existing ideas of what this is like. In canoe slalom, we're not used to racing in front of thousands of people, so it'll feel more normal for us.

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“It's just business as usual. Down through the green gates, up through the red ones, and stay in the moment.

“Racing never gets easier. It's uncomfortable. It's nerve-racking. But those are the moments where you really feel alive. To do that on the Olympic stage will be so special.

“I've been dreaming about this moment since I was ten years old. I knew I was going at the end of 2019, so I've just had to be really patient.

“I'm gutted that my parents aren't going to be able to come out because they're a massive part of this journey. They deserve this adventure just as much as I do. But I'm not afraid of it.”

Burgess soared to World Cup silver in Lee Valley in 2019 as he embarked on his fifth season for the senior British team.

He scooped his maiden medal on the World Cup stage in Markkleeberg two years earlier and has rapidly emerged as a Team GB medal hopeful in Japan this summer.

Like all athletes, Burgess’ preparation was thrown into chaos by the pandemic but the Staffordshire star is upbeat about his chance.

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He reckons he’s going faster than ever and hopes reaching tip-top condition for Tokyo can haul him to glory at the Kasai Canoe Slalom Course.

“I used the past year the best I could,” added Burgess, whose Olympic exploits will be broadcast live on Eurosport and discovery+.

“I'm faster and I'm in the best shape of my life, but it was hard not racing.

“I'm fast enough to win a medal. I've proven it with my performances so far this season – I just need to prove it with the result. 

“I was too focussed on going there to win, and now it feels like a controlled excitement. I know what I have to do and just stay in the moment."

Stream every unmissable moment of Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 live on discovery+, The Streaming Home of the Olympics.

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