NEWS

APRIL 5TH 2017

Olympic hopeful helps cadets in Nottingham

General Training Environment

Afton in training

An Olympic hopeful has taken on an adult volunteer role with Nottingham Sea Cadets as part of her road to Tokyo 2020.

afton fitzhenry (2)

Afton Fitzhenry

Petty Officer Afton Fitzhenry, aged 22, is helping out at the Waterside Way based unit amid her full-time training with the Team GB canoe sprint team.

It’s a sport the 22-year-old picked up as result of being a Sea Cadet at home in Northern Ireland.

After showing her talent, she’s now recognised among the canoe sprint elite and funded by UK Sport and National Lottery funding as part of British Canoeing’s Podium Potential  programme.

Her training has brought her to Nottingham and also led to her returning to her Sea Cadet roots.

We spoke to her about juggling her Olympic bid with helping Nottingham Sea Cadets.

C2 at U23 World Championships Bulgaria

With Bethan Gill in the C2 category at U23 World Championships in Bulgaria

How did you get into the Sea Cadets and canoeing?

“Sea Cadets introduced me to canoeing! Without them I would never have become a professional canoe sprint athlete.

“I was 14 when I joined Lisburn Sea Cadets and in the same year I went on a one star kayak course, run in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, by staff and instructing cadets.

“That inspired my whole journey and really introduced me to the world of canoeing.

“On my one star course, the instructors told me to try out for the national Northern Ireland cadet team. I was selected for that and raced nationally in London winning three golds in the process. They really inspired me to try out for the Canoe Association of Northern Ireland team and I just grew from there.”

C2 at World Cup 1 Duisburg

With Chloe Bracewell in the C2 at World Cup 1 Duisburg last May

“Sea Cadets still to this day benefits my canoeing career as it offers a place for me to develop my coaching and leadership ability.

“It also importantly provides mental breaks from my high performance and demanding training schedule.”

What brings you over to Nottingham and what is your role now with the Nottingham Sea Cadets?

“After being selected for the Northern Ireland kayak squad I was selected for a talent search, Girls4Gold, run by British Canoeing, UK Sport and Lottery Funding. This required me to fly to and from England and complete five different selection phases. Whilst part of Sea Cadets I went on many courses and was required to travel to them, so traveling for the selection phases was no problem.”

“After successfully being selected to be part of the Girls4Gold I had to move to Nottingham to begin my career as a full time athlete at Holme Pierrepont. At this point, I had started the Officer Training Corps (OTC) with my University in Belfast, and so transferred to East Midlands OTC.

Nottigham 200m race

In action at a 200m race in Nottingham

“Due to my already physically demanding job I had to leave the OTC but I didn’t want to leave cadets and hence forth I have been at Nottingham Sea Cadets as a uniformed instructor.”

“Within Nottingham I will be mostly offering guidance and coaching for paddle sports within cadets. Hopefully the cadets I coach will develop a love for the water and maybe even go on to represent our unit in the National Combined Regatta!”

Being a semi-professional sportsperson, what kind of reaction do you get from the cadets?

“The cadets find it quite a novelty and are quite inquisitive. I guess it isn’t your average day job!”

What drives you on to continue your association with the Sea Cadets?

“Sea Cadets offers me so many opportunities to develop myself but also provides me with a great deal of enjoyment with like-minded people. I wanted to give something back as it has provided me with such a base to my life. It has given me skills to deal with whatever life throws at me, but also to enable me to embrace any challenge.”

Training Camp Portugal

At a training Camp in Portugal

What do you hope to achieve?

“I would love to develop paddle sports within Nottingham Sea Cadets to make it one of the strongest units.

“Sea Cadets offers a stable life balance within my sporting career and supports the goals I want to achieve.

“This year I will be attending the European and World Championships with the ultimate aim of racing in Tokyo 2020 and getting Great Britain the first ever women’s canoe sprint gold medal.”

“Sea Cadets offers me so many opportunities to develop myself but also provides me with a great deal of enjoyment with like-minded people. I wanted to give something back as it has provided me with such a base to my life. It has given me skills to deal with whatever life throws at me, but also to enable me to embrace any challenge.”