Bill Carne recently donned his wellingtons to watch William Coney train in his canoe on a large pond near his family farm – and marvelled at the work ethic of this talented young 17 year old...

This summer saw William Coney show his immense commitment to canoeing by going on a six-week road trip around Europe, training full time, and spending three weeks in Prague, Czech Republic, two weeks in Augsburg, Germany and one week in Bratislava, Slovakia training for and racing in the Slovak Open International, a world-ranking race.

William hails from the Lampeter Velfrey area and with his brother James has achieved great success in his chosen sport by dint of a total commitment that goes way beyond what most aspiring young footballers or rugby players would consider normal, plus the need to travel widely now that they have achieved international recognition.

“This year I raced in the Junior (under18) trials at Grandtully, Scotland and Nottingham, and was selected for the Junior European Championships in Macedonia.

“I raced well there, making the semi-final in the individual and won a bronze medal with team mates Jac Davies from Bala and Sam Ibbotson from Doncaster.

“The team event saw all three of us racing down together, making sure that we not only avoided the testing obstacles but didn’t get in each others’ way.

It is a challenging test not only of individual skills but real focus on not hitting each other out of synch at such speed and intensity!”

“We train in Llandyssul and have always been welcomed and supported by Llandyssul Paddlers - and we train in Cardiff with the Seren Dwr Slalom Club at the Cardiff International White Water Centre.

“These facilities and groups have been a huge support and I owe a huge amount of my success to the ‘Canoe Wales’ coaches Richard Lee and Geoff Forster, John Willicy, Wojciech Sekula and Mark Abbott and Nigel Midgeley, who have been very helpful over the time I have been paddling, to make sure I am in the best possible position on the start line.

Outside of his canoeing and kayaking William used to really enjoy playing rugby for Narberth as a second row in a team coached by Gareth Jones but stopped at about 14 years old because he had started his interest in negotiating tricky man-made obstacles in a raging torrent.

He also took part in lifesaving, which saw him take his bronze award in processes such as water safety, diving into the pool to rescue someone and testing skills on a mannequin and sailing, where he fell in a few times but learned some balance techniques and water-confidence that gave him a head start when he followed brother James into canoeing.

Ask William about his start in his sport and he is quick to answer.

“My brother James started paddling with Nigel Midgeley, the Canoe Wales development officer through school and then shortly after I joined in, during the summer of 2009.

“I fell in a few times and had to quickly learn how to roll out of any danger if I was tipped over whilst competing and I have been involved ever since.”

For the uninitiated, William and Co have to get down a course, usually designed so that the best paddler would finish in about 100 seconds, as quickly as possible whilst passing through ‘gates’ suspended above them at various points on the course, some of which have to be negotiated at full tilt downstream or by defying the water’s flow back upstream for a short while.

At the moment, William would take between 110 and 115 seconds but is dramatically reducing that time.

Touching a gate earns a time penalty of two seconds and anyone missing a gate has no chance thereafter because there is a time penalty of 50 seconds!

“I paddled kayak to Division Two level,” William told us, “then in early 2011 concentrated on canoe - and that year I went from Division Three to Division One, winning the Welsh J14 championship.

“I spent 2012 progressing up the ranks of Division One and in 2013 I got promoted from that division to premier and got a top ten result, which was brilliant.

“My mum and dad have always been a huge support to me in whatever I choose to do and have played a massive role in financing and taking me to training, whilst my brother James has helped me massively by taking me to training and racing (even this year when he has been on rehab from a shoulder dislocation earlier in the year.

“He even drove me to training and couldn’t paddle himself, so thank you James!”

Now James is off at University William has even roped Granddad into driving him to training.

Other pople that have helped include Hazel and David Ridge, whose daughters are on the Welsh squad and have taken him to loads of races and training camps around the UK for years. They all cut costs by travelling as often as possible in camper vans!

Mason Brothers also allow him and James to use their lake to train right next door to the Coney family farm, which is a massive help for flat work and stamina sessions. It takes about five minutes to paddle around it and really helps build up strength and endurance.

William also received a small grant from Sports Cymru but like his brother is constantly looking and applying for sponsorship to fund training, fuel and equipment. So far he has had little success from local companies despite many letters.

It is also worth noting that whilst local clubs supply canoes to start but a new C1 boat might cost around £1,700 and a C2 (for two people) about £600 more!

At the moment William attends College Sir Gar, who have been very supportive since they have let him go on training camps and race at competitions during term time as long as he keeps up to date with the work.

As part of the college course one has to go on a long period of work placement, and they let him go to Scotland to train on one of the selection sites alongside his work placement. From there he is hoping to go to university to study either Agriculture or Sports Science.

Ask William about ambitions in canoeing and he already has a list he is working through which includes:

• Junior U18 GB team in canoe single and canoe doubles.

• A medal at Junior Europeans or World Championships in 2015.

• To become a full time athlete

• Make the U23 team in the following years, building up race experience and to be in contention for finals and medalling in these races.

• I then want to make the senior team and compete in Olympics.

It shows just how single-minded this talented young sportsmen he is and we wish him every success in the future because he deserves it!