Adam Burgess embracing unusual methods to fulfil Olympic canoeing dream

Having finished fourth at Tokyo 2020, Burgess is targeting a medal after being named in Team GB’s Paris-bound canoe slalom squad

Abi Curran
Wednesday 15 November 2023 16:38 GMT
Adam Burgess is heading to his second Olympic Games in Paris
Adam Burgess is heading to his second Olympic Games in Paris (Getty Images)

As a practitioner of yoga, ‘breathwork’ and cold-water therapy, Paris 2024 Olympian Adam Burgess is no stranger to cynics.

The 31-year-old will have a second shot at an Olympic medal next summer having been named in Team GB’s four-strong canoe slalom squad.

It’s fair to say Burgess does things very differently to his team-mates and he first tried breathwork, a conscious form of breathing practice, as rehabilitation for a shoulder injury in 2017.

Met with scepticism in some quarters, Burgess believes the practice has been key to reviving a career which also includes European gold, three World Cup medals and fourth place at his debut Olympics in Tokyo.

“When people hear ‘breathwork’, their mind jumps to lying on the ground or sitting quietly in meditation,” he said. “I’m interested in functional breathing.

“There is also a performance element and there are certain things in my warm-up that I don’t see any other athlete doing.

“It’s the niche that I find myself in with this knowledge. It’s complementary to the work we do with strength and conditioning and the physios, but it is a different feel.

“The barrier for most athletes is that their ego gets in the way. It sounds too simple to be true and you might have a physiologist or a coach that tells you one thing and I’m telling you another.

“It can feel like a step back to take two forwards, which is where people struggle – I’ve gone there and the proof is in the pudding, I think. I’m hoping that another Olympic Games will inspire me to raise the profile and teach it in schools.”

Burgess was one of four athletes selected to Team GB’s canoe slalom squad for Paris 2024
Burgess was one of four athletes selected to Team GB’s canoe slalom squad for Paris 2024 (Action Images via Reuters)

Having been selected in a four-strong British canoe slalom squad alongside Joe Clarke, Mallory Franklin and Kimberley Woods, Paris 2024 offers an opportunity for Burgess to right the wrongs from Tokyo, where he finished fourth and missed out on a place on the C1 podium by just 0.16 seconds.

He was edged out of the medal places again at a home World Championships in the summer, finishing fifth at Lee Valley, but is confident he has learned his lessons and can deliver when it matters most.

“I’ve built on the Tokyo performance, and it has been a couple of seasons since,” he said. “I remember leaving there feeling that I really had a good grip on what it means to deliver on the day and what it means to perform.

“It’s such a mythical thing in canoe slalom but my level of consistency is unmatched worldwide.”

Nutrition is another crucial part of Burgess’ unique preparation approach and Aldi, the Official Supermarket Partner of Team GB and ParalympicsGB, are supporting all athletes with a monthly food voucher, to fuel them through training, competitions, and past Olympic Games.

Burgess came through a tough selection battle with close friend Ryan Westley, who secured Team GB’s qualification with his European Games victory but was not chosen to take up the sole quota place.

Burgess has impressed on the world stage during this Olympic cycle
Burgess has impressed on the world stage during this Olympic cycle (Getty Images)

Proving to selectors that he should be the man representing Team GB in Paris has brought its challenges but Burgess faced them head on to fulfil his Olympic dream once more.

“I really wanted to leave the selection panel with no doubt, so I was there to perform,” said Burgess. “As his competitor, I was never going to make it easy for him and I’m very happy to secure the spot again.

“It’s super conflicting because, as Ryan’s friend, I would have loved for him to compete at an Olympic Games. He’s been one of the outstanding athletes over the past ten years. In 2018, I considered him to be the best in the world.

“We’re both fast because we drive each other, it’s difficult to be quick unless you’ve got that competition within your own nation. We have so much mutual respect for each other and I’m really proud of the relationship him and I have despite being rivals.”

Team GB canoe slalom squad for the Paris 2024 Olympics

  • Mallory Franklin: Women’s Canoe Single (C1) & Women’s Kayak Cross
  • Kimberley Woods: Women’s Kayak Single (K1) & Women’s Kayak Cross
  • Adam Burgess: Men’s Canoe Single (C1)
  • Joe Clarke: Men’s Kayak Single (K1) & Men’s Kayak Cross

Aldi is the home of fresh affordable eating, proud partners of Team GB & ParalympicsGB fuelling athletes through to Paris 2024

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