Canoeing's Blackwell honoured for going above and beyond in the face of Covid

Fieke Blackwell has been recognised for going above and beyond at British Canoeing.
Fieke Blackwell has been recognised for going above and beyond at British Canoeing.

The British Canoeing team manager who contained a Covid outbreak at the World Championships has been recognised with an award from UK Sport, writes Sportsbeat's Tom Harle.

Fieke Blackwell, the manager of Britain’s successful slalom squad, was the voice on the end of the phone when three paddlers caught the virus at their biggest event of the year.

Blackwell’s job was to keep unaffected athletes safe, re-organise rooms, co-ordinate travel schedules and get the athletes who tested positive back on the water as soon as possible.

She was able to do just that and Britain rallied to produce five medals on the whitewater in Augsburg, Germany, finishing third in the medal table.

“We had a lot of knowledge and experience of managing Covid but it really came at the worst possible time," said Blackwell, whose work is powered by National Lottery funding.

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“It made it even more difficult that I wasn’t actually on the ground with the team at the time of the outbreak. I had to manage it all remotely and it was tough to understand the full picture.

“The three people all had breakfast together and shared the same car but you don’t quite know where it’s coming from, there was always that fear in the back of your mind.

“It’s all one big puzzle to consider but I am proud of the way we managed it and that our medal potential wasn’t affected too much.”

It was a feat of creative planning and communication that earned Blackwell the Support Staff prize at UK Sport’s PLx Awards, recognising outstanding contributions to the high-performance community.

Blackwell said: “It’s very nice to be recognised.

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“I feel like I get a lot of recognition from people at British Canoeing for what I do but for a few more people to know about it, it’s really cool. It’s nice not to go unnoticed!”

At least next year’s World Championships will be slightly closer to home for Blackwell and company.

London’s Lee Valley Whitewater Centre will stage the 2023 edition of the Championships, a key Olympic qualifier, from 19-24 September

She said: “We are already working hard to make sure it’s the best possible Championships for the athletes themselves.

“There are lots of things we can suggest for the athletes in general and also how we can make it work for the British team.”

The PLx awards are organised by UK Sport, the nation’s high-performance experts. Through strategic leadership and investment of National Lottery and Government funds, UK Sport has transformed high-performance sport, winning more Olympic and Paralympic medals than ever before. For more information visit https://www.uksport.gov.uk/