ONE of the world’s leading white water rafters who normally plies his paddle at the Lee Valley White Water Centre is swapping the rapids of the Hertfordshire based venue for the wild waters of a river in central America.

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Paskell Blackwell, assistant manager at the Lee Valley White Water Centre near Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire is heading off to Costa Rica today (30 September) to take part in the 2011 World Rafting Championship on the ferocious Pacuare River, considered one of the world’s most challenging rivers for rafting.

Lee Valley White Water Centre is the only brand new London 2012 venue to open to the public ahead of the Games – and is enjoying a highly successful first season which ends on 16 October. The Centre will host five days of intense competition next year where the world’s best will battle it out for gold in front of 60,000 spectators.

Paskell is captain of Team GB’s men’s rafting team which is ranked third in the world and are also world champions at head to head rafting. During the competition he will stay in a jungle eco village close to the Pacuare River where more than 50 nations will compete for the title of rafting world champions.

Blackwell said: “It’s obviously going to be a big change from rafting at the Lee Valley White Water Centre but I have been training very hard along with the rest of the team. We’re hoping for a top ten finish. It’s a very competitive field and there’s a very small margin to being on the podium and missing out.”

Team GB will be hoping to improve on its third place finish at the last World Rafting Championships when Brazil won the men’s title and Canada the women’s.

The competition takes place from 4 to 11 October and is held every two years. Some of the teams are made up of indigenous tribes who raft in remote regions of central and south America. The 68 mile long Pacuare River passes through dense tropical forests and is home to a vast array of wildlife including jaguars, ocelots, monkeys sloths and hundreds of species of birds.

Paskell has been representing the British rafting team for six years and has been captain for the last two. He became involved in water sports while at university in Bangor, north Wales.

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