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Page last updated at 12:38 GMT, Thursday, 28 May 2009 13:38 UK

Everest inspiration

Venue: Holme Pierrepont, Nottingham Dates: 28-31 May Coverage: Saturday - 1255-1430 BST, BBC One, 1600-1800 BST on red button; Sunday - 1400-1515 BST, BBC Two; Also on BBC Sport website (UK users only). Follow our man in Nottingham


Baillie tells tale of paddling uncle

By Ollie Williams

Anyone involved in a sport a little off the beaten track will be used to being asked exactly how they first became interested.

Kitesurfers, tug of war specialists, curlers and figure skaters will all have had to explain what first drove them to their sport of choice, while the rest of the world laced up their football boots or took to the tennis court.

In particular, the top slalom canoeists converging on Nottingham this week chose one of those sports where it can be difficult to imagine how you start out, given how fast and furious it looks when the professionals do it.

His friend capsized and, whilst trying to rescue him, he got swept off down a rapid and that was the last anyone saw of him

Tim Baillie on his uncle

But should fellow GB canoeist Tim Baillie find himself upside-down on Nottingham's Holme Pierrepont course this week, he can call on an unusual paddling pedigree.

While many top canoeists have often been brought up by paddling parents, Baillie's uncle took the pastime to new heights.

"My mum's younger brother was Dr Mike Jones, who was quite a famous adventure and expedition paddler in the 1970s," says Baillie.

"He pioneered expeditions to the Himalayas, and they actually paddled the river that runs up Everest. They did the first descent of that back in 1972."

Jones wrote a book about the trip and a film, Dudh Kosi - Relentless River of Everest, won 12 major international awards in 1976.


However, Jones' career, which also included a stint in charge of the British Universities' slalom team, ended in disaster during a similar adventure.

"It ended a little bit tragically when he drowned on an expedition to the river that runs up K2.

"He was trying to rescue his friend - they'd only just arrived and they were trying to warm up on the river, but it was lot faster than it looked. It was quite dramatic.

"His friend capsized and, whilst trying to rescue him, he got swept off down a rapid and that was the last anyone saw of him."

That is no bad answer to anyone who asks where Baillie got his paddling inspiration, although the 30-year-old will have to work hard to compete with his uncle's endeavours, which remain legendary within the sport.

Not every top British paddler can claim that kind of heritage.

Baillie's GB team-mate Laura Blakeman, a veteran of 10 years' competition at senior international level, followed a more conventional route into a canoe.

Blakeman 'started on holiday'

"I tried it on holiday in Wales with friends. The local canoe club happened to be a slalom club, and I automatically got into racing within a year," she says.

"Me and my sister had a really good club coach who took us to venues throughout the country and showed us what was out there.

"I've always been sporty, I played hockey, netball and all sorts at school, but canoeing was always my priority. It's taken over my life."

Blakeman has yet to diversify into trips down the world's largest mountains in a canoe.

Her scariest paddling experience remains being unable to get out of the water having capsized as a 12-year-old, "with my dad on the bank holding a rope".

Holme Pierrepont might not have been much of a challenge for Dr Jones but, for British paddlers who have waited 14 years to perform in front of a home crowd on the world stage, it remains a pinnacle.

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04 Aug 08 |  Canoeing
Get into canoeing
23 Jun 09 |  Canoeing

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