STRATFORD’S Great Britain canoe polo paddlers Nicole and Danielle Brain competed in opposing teams at the 2015 Welsh Open in Llanelli on Sunday.
Nicole, 22, and her younger sister Danielle, 18, normally paddle for Dragon ladies in the National League but they joined up with the Dragon men for this event.
The men’s and ladies’ Dragon teams are made up mainly of canoeists from South Wales and Stratford. As this is a special event for them, they decided to split up the Dragon men’s teams into two mixed teams – Dragon Black and Dragon Red – the colour of their buoyancy aids (which also serve as bibs) and add some of the girls.
Danielle, captain of the GB U21 ladies’ team, was joined in the Dragon Red team by senior GB ladies’ captain Aimee Robson, along with four of the normal men’s team.
Nicole, a GB senior ladies’ team member, found herself in the GB Black team along with Jack, Aimee’s brother, and three others from the main men’s team, including Derek, their only Irish team member.
The event was run by the Bridgend Canoe Club and two other of the senior GB ladies’ team and members of that club – Louise Saxon and Bethan Littlewood – opted to play for their home team. Both normally play for Dragon Ladies in the league.
After the Saturday round-robin division matches, both teams found themselves in the top four in the Division One League and found they were playing against each other for a place in the final.
With the Dragon Black team having won their earlier match against Dragon Red in the divisions, everyone expected them to win. It was not to be though as both teams played hard but, much to everyone’s surprise, the Dragon Red team managed to win 7-4.
The next match was the play-off for third place in the Welsh Open. Dragon Black found they were playing against a strong Meridian team and, in a match in which the lead changed hands numerous times, the teams reached full time at 5-5.
The match went to extra time and two minutes into the second half Nicole Brain scored the Golden Goal with her speciality 45-degree shot at goal to seal third place for Dragon Black.
The final match of the day was for the Welsh Open Championships with Dragon Red up against the Friends of Allonby (FOA) team from Liverpool – a very strong team who train on their own superb permanent pitches set up as part of the Liverpool Dock redevelopment.
The match was tough as a very physical FOA used their strength and set pieces to secure a hard fought 4-3 victory, leaving Dragon Red as runners-up.
Also competing was the Brain sisters’ mother Tina. She was in a depleted team as four of their normal members played for other sides.
They had managed to put a mixed team together, including ten-year-old Flynn, whose father paddles in the Dragon men’s team, along with two of the original Dragon ladies players brought out of retirement to join Tina. Despite the lack of their normal players, they still managed to come seventh out of ten in the third division.
It was a weekend to remember for Danielle in particular as she celebrated her 18th birthday with a get-together on the Saturday night.