From 8th to 16th October, the training camp of the Women in Canoe Sport project takes place in Falun, Sweden. On Sunday, October 8th, after the Olympic Hopes race in Roudnice nad Labem, a 17-member team of women racers and coaches set off on a nearly 1500 km long journey north.
The night journey was uneventful. On Monday morning the competitors woke up to a completely different Swedish landscape, where dense stands of conifers and birch trees alternate with meadows, islands of rocks and lakes. In the afternoon, representatives of the home club Bo-Marcus Lidström and his son Yann Lidström were waiting for us in their boathouse. The beautiful shipyard, built in typical Swedish style, welcomed us with its homely atmosphere and comfort. The boathouse has a fully equipped kitchen and dining room, separate changing rooms, men's and women's saunas, drying rooms, toilets and a loft with sleeping quarters.
The light natural track is built in the landscape of a former copper mining site, which is now protected as a cultural heritage site. The track is located less than 80 metres from the entrance to the boathouse. Another track, a short artificial slalom course, is approximately 15 minutes' drive away near the centre of Falun. This is actually an entire complex (Falu Vildvattenpark), which includes an outdoor obstacle and climbing centre in addition to a small pump track and a more modern, pleasant boathouse.
The Czech-Slovak team to Sweden is composed of 8 young female competitors aged 13-14, three female competitors aged 15-17, two young beginners and three coaches. In Falun the whole group was connected with the training group of 3 young female racers of Yann Lidström.
On the day of arrival the group had their first training session on the natural track, accommodation, familiarization activities and a long sleep. The next day, in sunny weather, they had two training sessions on the artificial track. In the evening, the girls had more social activities, including a quiz on their knowledge of Swedish realities. The whole Wednesday morning was dedicated to training: the morning gym was followed by a longer training session on the water. In the afternoon, an activity that caught everyone's attention: climbing, scrambling and overcoming obstacles in the treetops of a typical Swedish mixed forest. After climbing, a short walk and dinner in the centre of Falun.
Falun is a town of approximately 38,000 inhabitants, located north of Stockholm in a lake and forest landscape. In the past the town was known for its extensive copper mining, which has been continuously mined for more than 1000 years. The last mine closed in 1992. The copper mining area around the town and the town's working class districts have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001. Copper added to the paint increases the wood's resistance to harsh Nordic weather and increases the life of houses by decades.
The whole group visited the mines after the morning training on Thursday, which was the brightest and warmest day of the whole camp. The mines were followed by an evening training session, this time under artificial light. The evenings tend to be cool in clear weather, and so it was today. Fortunately, there are saunas in the boathouse, which will warm up the tired body. Moreover, the rapid temperature changes significantly speed up recovery and contribute to an overall increase in the body's resistance.
The canoeing base in Sweden is tiny, and especially girls actively practicing canoeing is minimal. One of the key activities of the project is to show girls the beauty of the sport, motivate them and contribute to their integration into the international community. Through the contacts and friendships made, to attract them to more physical activity. But it is not only Swedes who can be inspired. The Nordic Cup will be attended by the other Nordic countries of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. None of these countries has a large base and only a minimum of girls playing sport. We are thus fulfilling a fundamental mission of the whole project: to inspire and recruit girls to canoeing, water slalom and paddling activities in general.
The training camp in Sweden continued with weekend competitions, which were attended by all the competitors of the project. The Czech and Slovak girls did not only meet the Swedish girls at home, but also girls from Lithuania and Estonia. A project cooperation with the Lithuanian sports club was even promised for the future.
Saturday's race took place on the natural slalom course, Sunday's race took place on the artificial pumping channel in Falun. The total number of participants was not high. In the Nordic countries, canoeing is not a widespread sport with a large membership base. However, the project is fulfilling one of its objectives - to contribute to the development of canoeing in countries that are not traditional canoeing countries. To show the not very large population of girls who play sports here that they can come to the centre of Europe, where a friendly environment awaits them and where they can find support for their development in the form of training camps, friends, coaches and trainers.
After Sunday's announcement and farewell followed a thorough cleaning of the shipyard, which provided the entire expedition with facilities for more than a week and a return home. The journey of more than 18 hours passed quickly, because there was a lot to remember.