I was brought up on the river; my parents, who met through canoeing, took my brother and I out in their boats before we could walk. From as early as I can remember, canoeing was part of my life. At first, it came in second place to my main sport, swimming. However, around the age of 13, I started to fall out of love with swimming and in love with being with friends on the river. I realised that playing in the waves is one of the best feelings in the world. Over the next few years, I progressed through the Scottish regional, development and performance squads, then Junior, U23 and Senior GB teams. At 18, I found myself on the Senior British Team for the first time and about to start studying biomedical sciences at the University of Edinburgh. For the next four years, I battled through an intense degree 400 miles from my coach and the British Canoeing base in London. Those four years consisted of stress, laughter, tears, sleep deprivation, making life-long friends and cramming as many biological facts into my brain as possible. Finally, I found myself finishing my exams and graduating, fancy gown and all.
Then a little idea changed my life. I’ve always had a passion for females in sport and my newfound free time gave me an incentive to do something about it. I decided to run an event for the girls of canoe slalom. In November 2018, we had 60 girls from all over the UK come to the Olympic canoeing course at Lee Valley to experience the first ever Slalom inspires event. The weekend was supposed to be a one-off, but the response was overwhelming; I’d never experienced so much positivity. Everyone, from the girls and their parents to the volunteers, were open minded to new ideas, new experiences and making new friends. It was clear we had initiated a conversation that needed continuing so Slalom Inspires was born, now an organisation that has run 6 events, created opportunities & initiatives, started a blog and that celebrates women and girls in canoeing.
I do sometimes feel I'm living in a paradox. I started Slalom Inspires with a deep love for canoeing but, as it progressed and reached wider audiences, my journey with injury was getting more challenging. The last few years have involved two surgeries, missing the Senior GB team twice, losing my Tokyo 2020 dreams, many hours of rehab and daily shoulder pain. I’d be lying if I said I have had an unwavering love for my sport. How can I run an organisation about promoting a love for canoeing and encourage girls into the sport when I don't know if I can love it myself?
It was Etienne Stott, 2012 Olympic champion, who gave me the wisdom to understand this paradox. He asked why I started Slalom Inspires and if becoming an Olympian was the main aim of sport. Slalom Inspires has allowed me to see more clearly that the answer is “Of course not!”. The whole premise of the organisation is to celebrate the love of canoeing and what this incredible sport can give you. It changes lives. It develops friendships, gives life experiences, includes travel to incredible places, builds self-confidence and celebrates a love of the outdoors. If I can see how much of an impact canoeing has on the lives of the girls I speak to, regardless of results, can I look in the mirror and realise it for myself?
Slalom Inspires has, at times, been my saviour. Running it and being a role model for girls has given me a purpose; a deeper understanding of my relationship with my sport and what my “why” is. It’s helped me understand that I must define myself as who I am and what I believe in, not what I do.
I am now understanding who I am. I’m a fierce daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, a grateful role model, a proud Scot, a ceilidh lover, a chocolate enthusiast, someone who values kindness, integrity, hilarity and someone who is passionate about making a difference to a world that is bigger than myself. I am, like most others, just a person trying to navigate the world in the best way I know how with the help of the people I hold dearest.
achievements I'm proud of
Degree in Biomedical Sciences (Physiology) from Edinburgh University
GB Senior Team 2014-2017
4th at Senior World Championships 2017
World Cup Silver Medallist 2014
Senior World Champions, 2 x European Champions, 2 x U23 World Champions team event
UK Sport Social Impact Award - for Slalom Inspires
Edinburgh University Hall of Fame induction
Eva Bailey Cup winner - Most outstanding female athlete of the year Edinburgh University