Olympic slalom canoeist Walsh retires

Campbell Walsh, Athens Olympic Games K1 silver medallist, Beijing Olympian and multiple international podium finisher, has announced his retirement from the sport this month.

“I'd said for a few years that I would most likely retire at the end of 2012,” said Walsh, who has competed in canoe slalom for 23 years and for 19 seasons as a member of a GB team, 13 of them as a full time athlete.

“Committing to that decision has been difficult. I've been living in a little canoe slalom bubble for most of my life, being lucky enough to pursue my childhood passion.

“Since the final World Cups I've become more and more comfortable with the decision in my head. On reflection, it has been a good process. I am now fully retired. And I'm completely happy with that.”

Walsh forged a remarkably long and glittering career, packed with medals and podium finishes. Alongside winning the silver medal in the 2004 Athens Games and competing at the 2008 Beijing Games, he won bronze medals in the 2006 and 2007 World Championships, was World Cup Champion in 2004, European Champion in 2008 and fourth in the 2009 World Championships.

Drilling further into the statistics, he achieved 20 top 5 places and 11 medals in his 67 major international competitions between 1999-2012. Asked whether there was one highlight which stands clear above the rest Campbell replied, “My greatest achievement is having consistently medalled at major championships for a number of years, particularly in the period from 2004 to 2009.

“In a lot of major championships I hit the podium which is quite rare. Certainly in that period there weren't many people, if anyone else, that was hitting the international podium as regularly as I was.”

As a GB Team member for almost two decades Walsh has seen at first hand the increase in funding through the National Lottery and the resulting advances in coaching and training.

“When I was 18 years old and moved to Nottingham to train there was one full-time and one part-time coach employed in the whole of the country and they were both for Olympic level,” he recalls.

“Nowadays there are five coaches for the Olympic squad, five full-time coaches for the development under-23 squad and numerous other employed coaches working at the home nation or regional level.

“Lottery funding has made an enormous difference. When it started there was suddenly a big boost and our top athletes and the funding meant they didn't have to scrape pennies or try to work part-time. They could be full-time athletes with a much more professional attitude.

“There was a transition period when the sport went from very amateur, some people adopted a very professional attitude within that, to being much more professional. I got to experience that and that was really valuable.”

Now, in a complete change of direction, Walsh has started an ‘athlete internship’ with global investment banking and securities firm, Goldman Sachs in the city of London.

He has also found a new physical challenge in orienteering and adventure racing, sports in which he revels in navigational and strategical elements. But, despite moving on in many directions, he has no plans to put the kayak world behind him.

“I have been in a very privileged position of being a full-time athlete,” he added. “Over these 26 years of paddling, so many people played a role in inspiring me, helping me and supporting me - to both achieve the above results and live an enjoyable and rewarding life.

“I'm sure I will always own a kayak, stay in touch with my paddling friends and follow the sport closely.”

To read more from Campbell about his career and his decisions to retire go to: www.campbellwalsh.com/news

  • Date published: 03 September 2013
  • Date updated: 04 May 2016
  • Published by: sportscotland sportscotland