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Top of Their Game: How Two of the Nation’s Most Accomplished Canoeists Paddled Their Way to Success

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TopOfTheirGame_1_SliderGetting ahead in the field is what drives many business strategies, and no matter what line of work you are in it is important to love what you do and to be prepared to learn at every opportunity; this is what drives success. Two people who certainly know how to reach their goals are Keith Moule and Lizzie Broughton, two of the UK’s top canoeists who are embarking on arguably the most intense sporting year of their lives. Having progressed from the junior level to becoming established national figures in their sport, they have learned to juggle their business and sport commitments and are preparing to reach new ground by becoming the first ever mixed K-2 (kayak double) to win the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race (DW). During this interview the duo discussed how the perpetual setting of new goals is what has driven them up through the classes of canoeing, and how years of preparation have culminated in a hectic yet inspirational year of challenges.

Commenting on the 125-mile DW, the longest non-stop canoeing race in the world, Keith said: “The opportunity came along to race with Lizzie, so after putting it off for at least a year we kind of thought ‘right, let’s do this’, and then the challenge of being the first ever mixed K-2 to win it, that’s a great idea for me. It is something that I always think about in training because that is how we can be remembered in the sport, and then maybe we can push the boundaries of the sport a little bit.”

As with almost every career, Keith and Lizzie’s rise to the top took years of pain-staking effort and the ability to deal with adversity. They have enjoyed pursuing their aims in the sport but they are also heartened by the evolution of the training system, which they believe is increasingly allowing junior canoeists to receive greater support in realising their ambitions. “People coming through now into the juniors, they go onto the U23’s, they go onto seniors, so there is a great progression route for them and the squad pick them up along the way and make sure they do not get lost in the system.” Just like any walk of life the pair may have done things differently at the start of their careers with the ensuing knowledge they have since picked up. “I think for me it would be knowing that you don’t have to be good or you don’t have to be the best when you are really young; I probably didn’t race my first Nationals until I was 16, which is quite late for the sport, and I certainly wasn’t one of the best when I was 16, wasn’t even really paddling probably when I was 14/15. But a lot of the people who were paddling and who were miles ahead of me then aren’t even in the sport anymore, so it’s not something where you have to be the best at a very young age,” explained Lizzie.

The investment of time and energy into their pursuits has unearthed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge that has helped build their pathways to prestige, and they have plenty of information to pass onto the next generation. However, as ever, the ultimate key is to be driven. “I think working hard is probably the most important thing; you can be the best at your canoe club but that does not necessarily equate to being the best anywhere else. So perhaps set yourself targets, it doesn’t have to be an individual person but maybe think ‘I want to be faster than that group’, and when you reach that group you can always be thinking of becoming faster this month, next month, next year, etc.,” said Lizzie.

Employed as a college faculty manager and database marketing analyst respectively, Keith and Lizzie thrive on the hectic manner of their daily schedules; early starts and long days have not deterred them from pursuing their goals in the office and on the water. “Getting up just after 5 o’clock in the morning to go training, finishing work and going training again; not every morning is easy especially when it is -2 °C outside and it is December/January time, but the majority of the time it is what I like doing, so that side of it works quite well,” explained Keith. Both athletes have taken stock of their dual commitments and have managed to replicate the benefits of these into both lines of work. “The thing I take from my work into training is that the more you put into it, the more you get out. So the harder you work at one job, the more rewards you are going to get from it,” said Keith. “I think work and training can fit in pretty well together. I know that I can’t really stay late at work in the evenings to finish off stuff because I’ve got to go, I’ve got to leave to get training, so I guess that makes me more motivated and productive in the day; I know that if I do not get things finished I can’t go training, which is normally incentive in itself to work hard at work,” added Lizzie.

However, consistent success does not mean that one is closed to other ways of excelling at their profession, and Keith and Lizzie have chosen to become Brand Ambassadors for Gorely New Media in order to observe their project from a new perspective. “What I’ve gotten out of it so far already is work at a professional level, so it makes a big difference. I have mentioned about having the right training group around you to help, it also helps to work with people who have goals and work hard to achieve those goals, and to get that level of professionalism that then takes us seriously in our sport; we can then see how they work and make a difference to how we approach our training and our racing. So we look at every angle of our next race, we don’t leave any stone unturned, we don’t leave anything to chance; we make sure that we have prepared properly for that, and that’s something that we have picked up through working with the Gorely Group because we work at a professional level and that helps us to prepare for our races,” said Keith.

“It (the partnership) makes us look at what we are trying to achieve a little bit more, so it sets up a professional platform on our outlook and on our races. So when we are preparing for stuff, we analyse everything that we need to do in order to maximise our performance at the race,” Keith added. “It is giving us an additional perspective on the sport, so being able to look at it from not such a canoe-focussed position, to see where we might make gains in other areas,” Lizzie concurred.

Keith harbours hopes of making the 2016 Olympics in Rio; his life story suggests that if anybody loves their work and hobbies then success will follow. The key to a prosperous career is persistence and hard work, and the more people subscribe to this mantra, the more success stories will follow. Business and sport are connected by a wide variety of core values, pointing most significantly to the profits of a strong work ethic. Countless companies have been founded on this principle, and likewise sporting triumphs have arisen from strong inner discipline and commitment.

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