LOCAL canoeists starred at the 27th Liverpool International Canoe Polo Tournament.
The annual event is run by Liverpool-based Friends of Allonby (FOA) Canoe Club as part of the Liverpool River Festival.
The four canoe polo pitches (size of a 50m pool) were set up in the old Dukes Dock next to the famous Albert Dock on the River Mersey waterfront and this provided superb viewing for supporters and members of the public some ten foot above the water level.
Three local paddlers were competing in different teams in the event, all in the top class. The event was split into four classes depending on ranking and personal choice.
In a similar programme to other tournaments, Saturday’s schedule had each class split into leagues of five teams and in class one there were 20 teams in four leagues.
Most successful was the Dragon men’s team in which 1992 canoe slalom Olympian Chris Arrowsmith played as a keeper as well as helping the team attack, rushing back to defend the goal as the play turned.
Dragons were out to rectify their poor showing in the Division One League in which they finished fifth.
They won their league on Saturday and on Sunday played in the knockout part of the competition.
They won their first games and found themselves in the semi-final against Friends of Allonby, a team they had beaten in the final of last year’s tournament.
This, as were all the final top matches, was a tough and hard fought game. Dragons secured a tight win and won through to meet an up and coming Kingston team from Hull in the final.
The final was an exciting match to watch as the play moved back and forth and it was the Dragons who prevailed 5-2 to win the tournament.
Also competing in the tournament were local Great Britain Ladies team members Nicole Brain, 23, and her sister Dani, 18.
The sisters competed in different mixed teams and to get experience both sides elected to play in Class One against mainly men’s teams.
Whilst this gave them little chance of winning, the experience of playing in tough matches is good for their preparation to play in the World Championships later this year. Most of the GB Ladies team were at Liverpool playing in different club teams.
Dani played with the mixed Liverpool team, Friends of Allonby B, with whom she trains whilst at Liverpool University.
They finished third in their league on Saturday and had an exciting tournament as Dani found herself playing against her uncle Chris Arrowsmith of the Dragons team as well as having her sister in her team.
They enjoyed their weekend and finished an impressive sixth after being beaten by local team Cherwell A in the play-off for fifth/sixth place.
Cherwell are a Banbury-based team but train, as do the Stratford canoeists, on winter Sunday evenings in the Stratford Leisure Centre pool.
Nicole played with some of her GB team-mates and their club members from South Wales, which included one of the team’s fathers.
They also finished third in Saturday’s league but lost one more game on Sunday than Dani’s FOA team and found themselves playing against Avon of Bristol in the seventh/eighth place play-off. They dominated this match to finish seventh.
Nicole also had a game on Sunday against her uncle Chris’ Dragon team.
It was a successful weekend as all the Stratford and Banbury Cherwell paddlers left satisfied with their displays.