Mallory Franklin is one of Britain's top canoers. As part of Team GB's Senior Women's team for C1 (Canoe Slalom) and with silver medals at both European and World Championship level she's also a strong contender for a spot on the British team for Tokyo 2020.
Hailing from Windsor, home of Legoland, Mallory was just five when she decided to get stuck into something more adrenaline fueled than playing with plastic bricks. Her passion for canoeing and kayaking began at a pretty early age and it turns out that a humble burnt burger was what started her journey to becoming a World Cup medallist.
'I've always been a water baby, I swum my first length when I was one and a half or something stupid because I wanted to go on the big inflatables. I've always really liked being around water and I guess canoeing and kayaking is kind of the perfect sport for that really.
"I've always been a water baby, I swum my first length when I was one and a half"
'I started canoeing and kayaking when I was nearly six, so quite a long time ago now. I used to live in Windsor and the canoe club there is based right next to the leisure centre. Me and my brother were just trying to find something to do. The canoe club was having a massive open day with loads of boats out, big barbecue, typical thing you want to get involved in and we went down and have pretty much been paddling ever since.'
After learning the basics around Windsor, Mallory was soon found herself heading to Shepperton for the bigger white water challenges that really got her hooked on canoeing and kayaking. This is where she found her passion for play that is at the heart of success on the water.
'The thing I love most is just having control on the water, being able to go canoeing and just play. Being able to know that I can sit in a stopper and just get bounced around. It's knowing that I can do whatever I want to do out there.
'The water is a force in itself and if you're sitting in a stopper and bouncing there is the pressure of that but I know I can just paddle out. I love being able to kick up and run lines well, it's just the fun of playing on the water.
'Now even if I'm stressed I'll just go and play for a bit. You have to remember why you canoe.'
Currently studying Sports Therapy, Mallory has the difficult task of juggling her university studies with a training regime that is already pretty demanding, especially for an athlete whose as committed as Mallory.
'If I'm in a session and getting a bit pent up and putting too much pressure on everything that's when I leave for a minute and just go play, just calm down and then come back to the session with a fresher mind. You can get so caught up in trying to do every little thing. I'm quite a perfectionist with things and so I get very annoyed, pretty quickly if there's something that I'm consistently doing wrong or that I can't quite work out, so I need to take myself out to be able to come back.
"Now even if I'm stressed I'll just go and play for a bit. You have to remember why you canoe."
'I want to be the best I can be. It's where my perfectionism comes from I think. I want to be at the point where I am at the best physically that I've been at whatever I'm doing. With slalom I always turn up every day to try and continually get better and to be the athlete that you know when you turn up to a race will be in the final and possibly on the podium. That is the athlete I want to be. I don't want to be the athlete where you go “Well they have every potential of getting there but they're up and down. Some races they don't even qualify, some races they're medalling." I don't want to be that athlete. Being that would frustrate me. You can't cope with that mentally. I just want to get to the point where I'm consistently there.'
This dedication to pushing her limits has fueled Mallory's international canoeing success and she's still hungry for more, setting her sights on the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo. But even though she has Olympic dreams, this is one athlete who has a refreshingly down to earth view of the world's biggest sporting event.
'The Olympics are the pinnacle of our sport. I want to go, and I want to be one of the boats there and I want to be the best in Britain at that point. But where I'm at at the moment and where I'm going through my sport you realise that the Olympics isn't the be all and end all.
'You can be an athlete that's the best in the world and turn up at the Olympics and bottom out. It's one race, then at the end of the day if you make the final it's one run. You can put so much on that.
" I couldn't see a point in my life where I wouldn't come canoeing."
'In terms of the media and the way our sport's viewed the Olympics is everything but Richard Fox, who dominated our sport for quite a few years, never won a medal at the Olympics but he won so many world's before that. We wouldn't look at him now and say, “He's not that great because he didn't win the Olympics." He was the best in the sport at that point. So though I'd love to go to the Olympics and I'd love to win the Olympics, my goal in my sporting career is to be consistently at a high level over a few years and have the ability to perform at that level.'
Underlying Mallory's steady approach to her sporting career is a deep passion for just being out on the water. This balance of focus and fun is what has kept the Olympic hopeful fired up for the sport and looks set to make her a feature of the British canoeing scene for a long time to come.
'The fact that I love canoeing is massively a reason why I keep turning up. I think that if you don't love what you are spending day in and day out doing you'll get very bored and not want to come back, especially when it's a sport. If it's a job you're very much more tied into that. In a sport you have to look at it and think, 'Am I enjoying life?' and if you're not there's no point in being here.
'But I massively enjoy canoeing. I couldn't see a point in my life where I wouldn't come canoeing, even recreationally just playing around in the water when I can. I will always want to be here.'