David Florence to lead British slalom squad for 2011

By Ollie WilliamsBBC Sport at the Lee Valley White Water Centre

Olympic silver medallist David Florence will lead the GB slalom canoeing team this year after British selection races concluded at Lee Valley on Monday.

Florence led selection in the men's C1 (canoe single) and will also compete in the C2 (canoe double) after three days of racing on the 2012 Olympic course.

"This was a big race. You've got to make the team, it's the big hurdle at the start of the year," said Florence.

Richard Hounslow, who partners Florence in the C2, led single kayak qualifying.

Hounslow finished ahead of Athens 2004 silver medallist Campbell Walsh and Huw Swetnam.

Three paddlers will be officially selected to the team in each of the four Olympic classes in the coming days, based largely on the results of the last three days of racing.

Athletes in the C1 and C2 classes use paddles with a blade at one end, while those in the K1 kayak class use a double-bladed paddle.

Mark Proctor and Daniel Goddard join Beijing 2008 medallist Florence in the C1, while Laura Blakeman returned to the British team in style to lead selection in the women's K1.

Blakeman, who competed at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, failed to make last year's team but battled back to qualify alongside Fiona Pennie and Lizzie Neave.

The one boat class where some doubt remains is the men's C2.

Florence and Hounslow won world bronze in the C2 last year, which pre-qualified them for the team regardless of selection race results.

But Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott, Britain's other top C2 pairing, were unable to compete in these selection races through injury.

They will instead face a race-off with Adam Burgess and Greg Pitt, who qualified third in the C2 selection races, at the Prague World Cup in August to determine who goes to September's World Championships in Bratislava.

Rhys Davies and Matthew Lister formed the other boat to qualify from the men's C2 races.

The selection races were affected by strong winds at the Lee Valley course, which introduced an element of luck to proceedings as the gates through which competitors must pass were swinging in the breeze.

"The conditions are tough," Florence told BBC Sport, "but it was great to see how many spectators there were. It was exciting.

"This is the first race of serious consequence on this course and it will be a similar format next year to decide who is the one boat [per class] to get to go to the Olympics. You can see it building towards London.

"The big thing is to be the person who gets that spot for Britain and being the best performer at the Worlds, to go there and win a medal, will help that."

British head coach Jurg Gotz said: "There weren't really any surprises. Experience has shown through at the end.

"In the women's K1, we've seen some fantastic performances and Laura Blakeman is back in the team. We have at least two boats of top-five material in all four of the Olympic classes.

"We want to make sure the Union Jack goes up in the middle of the flag-poles next year."

This is the first full year of training on the Olympic course for the British team, the majority of whom moved from the Nottingham area late last year having previously trained at Holme Pierrepont.

"I've moved down here but I'm not quite settled yet," admitted 28-year-old Florence.

"I'm staying with my girlfriend's sister a bit nearer London. Four months on an airbed has maybe been a bit much but I should be getting something sorted soon.

"Some of the guys have been in a hostel for a bit, everyone's been trying to find somewhere to live. Everyone's been making do but now we're glad to be here paddling on the course."