By Trevor Baxter
WHEN OLYMPIC champion Etienne Stott takes to the water at the Canoe Slalom World Championships the cheers in Saddleworth will be as deafening as they are at London’s Lee Valley White Water Centre.
But relatives will also be keeping fingers crossed the London 2012 gold medallist emerges unscathed from the biggest event on September 16-20 before next summer’s Rio Games.
Stott, 36, has paddled back to the top of his sport after undergoing the second major shoulder operation of his career.
He is doing so with Mark Proctor after Olympic partner, Tim Baillie, quit the sport in January 2014.
“The first injury in 2011 took six months to recover from,” explained Stott, the son of a Mancunian merchant seaman and French Canadian mum.
“The second (in July 2013) was a year – so twice as hard, twice as long. But I had incredible support from British Canoeing and the best surgeon Professor Leonard Funk.
“I owe him both shoulders and at least part of my Olympic medal,” laughed Stott, whose grandfather Derek was born in Diggle while Auntie Lynne and Uncle Alan live in Uppermill and Delph.
Etienne’s continued: “I just tried to do everything right and lo and behold it has worked out.
“The lowest points were never that low because I was always on the mission to get myself out of where I was.”
Stott, twice a World Championship C2 silver medallist, didn’t strike it as rich as some of Great Britain’s London Olympians so he’s delighted to remain a National Lottery funded athlete.
“We are grateful to people who buy lottery tickets because the level of quality support required to get back to world class levels and maintain a squad of amazing athletes takes a lot of investment,” he explained.
“Our job is to work really hard to make sure we repay that investment and that is what we are dedicated to doing.
“Hopefully, with my CV I have proven I am diligent and hard working and do make the right decisions to be worth backing,”
And Stott’s ambition remains the retention of his Olympic crown. “Getting to Rio would be an amazing achievement,” he said.
“To defend my title would be a crazy dream in any normal way would never come true.”
National Lottery players raise £34 million every week, helping 1,300 athletes prepare for Rio 2016 and funding community groups, arts, heritage and sports projects near you. Find out more: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk