STRATFORD’S Brain sisters – Nicole and Danielle – travelled to Hazewinkel, near Mechelen in Belgium, to compete in the Flanders Cup International Canoe Polo competition and the siblings returned with bronze medals to their name.
This also served as the third and final leg of the European Canoe Association (ECA) Cup competition.
The girls were following their mother, Tina, who competed there as part of the Great Britain Ladies B team 23 years ago in 1992. They came second that year.
Nicole, 21, who is swim manager at Stratford Leisure Centre, was playing her third international tournament in her first year as a member of the GB senior ladies team. This event was also the final selection for the European Championships in Essen, Germany, in late August for the GB team members.
Also joining her in the team was Warwick canoeist, Louise Clutton, joining the senior ladies team for the first time.
It was a mixed competition for the senior team who suffered an early, unexpected, loss to the Italian ladies. They won their next two matches against Poland and, unexpectedly, France.
They were beaten only 3-2 by the dominant ladies team of Germany and finished Saturday with a win against the Swiss.
With a win against Netherlands early Sunday morning, they finished third in the initial league, which put them in the semi-final against France. The French ladies had got themselves together and trounced the GB ladies 9-1.
In the play-off for third and fourth place, the GB ladies enjoyed a hard fought 4-3 win against the Swiss to finish third in the Flanders Cup event.
This also put them third in the ECA Cup competition, having only played at two of the three counting events.
Danielle’s captain honour
Seventeen-year-old Danielle had only rejoined the U21 GB ladies squad for the first time this year a week ago at the U21 Doncaster training weekend following her completion of her A-Level exams at King Edward VI School.
At the weekend she was selected as part of the U21 ladies international team for Mechelen – the first time this year they were to compete in an international tournament. At the end of the weekend she was also elected team captain – a great and very unusual honour for a 17-year-old canoeist.
The Flanders Cup was to prove a hard and testing time for the team who won only two of their five matches – against Italy and Netherlands. Despite this, they found themselves in third place at the end of the league and playing in the semi-final.
In the last four, like the senior team, they found themselves playing against the French U21 ladies who had beaten them 9-6 in the league and knowing the French senior ladies had just beaten GB ladies in their semi-final.
The youngsters knuckled down and improved their play in what was to prove a hard fought game and they managed to limit their deficit to 5-2.
They finished third in the Flanders Cup U21 ladies event – a good result for a team which, three months ago, was virtually written off for this season. The U21 squad had a large number of inexperienced – new and young – members this year, with Nicole and two other 2014 members going up to senior level.
The U21 ladies did not feature in the ECA Cup.
At the end of the event the canoe polo management confirmed the make-up of the teams that are to compete in the European Canoe Polo Championships on Baldeneysee Lake near Essen in Germany in late August.
Nicole was selected and was pleased to keep her place in the senior ladies team in her first year competing at that level. Louise Clutton, from Warwick, was also selected.
A surprised Danielle will captain her U21 ladies team as well in the championships. The team put up a good show at the weekend considering the overall experience level and the management considered they had improved sufficiently to compete in the European Championships.