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Page last updated at 09:19 GMT, Thursday, 1 July 2010 10:19 UK

Tim Brabants returns from hospital ward to water


Tim Brabants - from water to the ward and back

By Nick Hope

Aged 31 and with three Olympic medals already, many athletes may have considered retirement. Not Tim Brabants.

He is a qualified doctor and following the Beijing Games took 18 months out of the sport to work as a doctor on a Nottingham accident and emergency ward, but he is now on the comeback trail.

"I have plenty of time to be a doctor again, but only limited time to be an athlete and I want gold in London," he told BBC Sport.

Brabants' first major international competition since his return comes in Trasona, Spain at this week's European Championships, but he has been back in training since February.

Beijing was brilliant and I want to experience that again in London

Tim Brabants

By the time most of us are considering getting out of bed and readying ourselves for the day ahead, Brabants has already been up for a few hours and covered a fair distance on the water.

A training session is not complete until he has covered 15km, but that's not the end of his daily regimen as Brabants will repeat that distance again in the afternoon.

"At the moment I'm splitting my training, so I'm doing about 80% on the water, to get used to being in the kayak again, and then 20% in the gym," he explained.

Aside from weeks where he is competing, Brabants permits himself just one day off a fortnight, varying his schedule between water-based training and other exercises such as running, cycling and swimming.

However, he admits it wasn't easy to get back into the routine following his time away.

"It was tough for the first few weeks. From day one my mind was set on what I wanted to do, it was just a case of my body getting used to training once again," he said.

"My lab scores show I'm improving quickly and I'm feeling better week by week, but we'll only know later in the year whether all of the work is paying off."

Tim Brabants
Brabants won bronze in Sydney then gold and bronze in Beijing

Brabants won gold in the 1000m sprint and a bronze in the 500m event in Beijing.

While a repeat of that at a home Games may be motivation enough, one look around his rather tranquil Teddington training venue gives you an inkling as to why at the age of 33, he is still willing put his body through the rigorous training needed to maintain his Olympic push.

"It's not difficult to get out of bed and onto the water when it's a beautiful sunny morning, compared to when it's sub-zero temperatures, but you have that plan in your head," he said.

"Beijing was brilliant and I want to experience that again in London."

Such is the state of funding for several of the smaller Olympic sports, that some British athletes have to juggle training and competition with part- or even full-time work.

However, that is not the motivation behind Brabants' decision to return to the ward. He qualified as a doctor in 2002 and has worked periodically in the field ever since.

"I've been working towards specialising in emergency medicine. I love the A&E department, it's much like being on a sports team," he said.

"All of the doctors, nurses, porters and the X-ray people are all working for a common aim, under pressure and striving to do your best. I love it."

Following the 2004 Athens Olympics, Brabants spent 18 months away from the sport and on the ward, but this time he says he focused much more on defining his future after he finishes with sport.

"You have to think and prepare for your life after the Olympics, rather than think only about competing," he continued.

The first two World Cup events have gone very, very well, so I'm very happy with progress so far

Tim Brabants

"Otherwise you'll end up wondering, 'What now?' which is a little like what happened to me after Beijing.

"This time I'm better prepared."

Before Brabants can think about life after London, he has to reach the Games and this weekend will provide the first big test of how his comeback is going.

He has only competed in a couple of events since returning to training four months ago.

Brabants finished seventh in the 1000m in the World Cup event in Hungary in early June and he followed that with an impressive fourth place over the same distance in Germany last month.

"The first two World Cup events have gone very, very well, so I'm very happy with progress so far," he said.

His main target for this year is the Sprint Canoe World Championships in Poland in August.

"I want to be finishing in the top six or seven out of the nine-boat final and certainly off six months of training that's quite a big ask," he admitted.

"But I know how to compete, I know how to train, it's just a case of getting my body to respond. Realistically we're talking about next year before I start medalling again."

Brabants won two medals in Beijing, but his ability to repeat that feat has been compromised slightly by the fact the International Canoe Federation removed the 500m from the running order for the 2012 Games, replacing it with a 200m event to appeal to new fans.


"Unfortunately like most of these things it was a decision that was taken at the top," Brabants said.

"I miss the 500m, I know all my colleagues internationally do. We still race it in World Cups and it'll still remain a World Championship event.

"Personally I'm sad because I'm not good enough in the 200m event to win a medal in that, but it is great that we have some other British athletes who are strong over that distance."

Brabants therefore will be focus all his efforts on the 1000m over the next two years, with the chance of a place on a London podium his big incentive.

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see also
Meet sprint canoe star Rachel Cawthorn
29 Jun 10 |  Canoeing
Training return tough - Brabants
18 Jun 10 |  Canoeing
Cawthorn secures medal hat-trick
06 Jun 10 |  Canoeing
Beijing star Brabants back for GB
11 May 10 |  Canoeing
Why GB are set for more golds in 2012
06 Dec 09 |  Canoeing
Canoeing tips
04 Aug 08 |  Canoeing
Get into canoeing
23 Jun 09 |  Canoeing

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