SIX Olympic canoe hopefuls have made Hertfordshire their home during 2012 preparations at the Lee Valley White Water Centre.

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Organised by Hertfordshire is Ready for Winners, the group of paddlers are part of the international canoe federation’s Talent Identification Programme and are trying to gain experience on the best white water facilities in Europe during a two month period.

The group competed at the first competitive Canoe Slalom event at the Lee Valley White Water Centre, the London 2012 Canoe Slalom venue, in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire.

The event was part of the London Organising Committee’s “London Prepares” series, to test arrangements for the Olympic event next year.

The event ran for four days from July 28 to July 31.

Each paddler in the group has contributed a small amount of money to the communal pot to hire a minibus and travel across Europe attending open international events.

They rely heavily on the support of national governing bodies, communities and sport enthusiasts for their board and lodgings during the trip.

Each paddler pays a subsidised rent to Broxbourne Housing Association to enable them to stay at Grove House in Cheshunt.

All the selected paddlers are the national champions for their country.

Babacar Daoust-Cissé, a paddler from Senegal staying at Grove House, said: “It’s really helped to have a good place to stay and rest.

“This is our first time using the white water facilities.

“The first day was hard – lots of moves and tricky waves.

“We’re pretty excited to race there too.”

Pierrick Gosselin, who is coaching the group of paddlers on their tour around Europe, said: “Without this support with accommodation we would not have been able to come to this race.”

Ken Goodsell, deputy chief executive of Broxbourne Housing Association said: “We are delighted to support this initiative as we want our residents to share in the excitement of the build up to the 2012 Olympics happening here in the Borough”

Gareth Morgan of the Hertfordshire is Ready for Winners Partnership said: “The Hertfordshire is Ready for Winners Partnership were delighted to help when we were approached by LOCOG to see if we could support this group of aspiring athletes.

“This is an excellent example of the principle of Olympic friendship extending beyond the glitz and glamour of the Games themselves.

“Through our Partnership we are demonstrating our desire to work with young athletes from across the globe to help them try and fulfil their ambitions and potential to compete in London 2012.”

There are nine paddlers in the group, however three have relatives in London and have opted to take advantage of that and stay with them during their time in the UK.

The paddlers staying in the county are: Sebastian Rossi (Argentina), Nicolas Sierra (Mexico), Chang Yun-Chung (Chinese Taipei), Pan Hung-Ming (Chinese Taipei), Herman Husslein (Thailand) and Babacar Daoust-Cissé (Senegal) and they are coached by Pierrick Gosselin of France.

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