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'It's still hard to believe it happened'

THE water is still, the serenity disturbed only by ripples of applause.

Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott in the Men's Canoe Double during the 2012 Olympic Games. Picture: Getty Images
Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott in the Men's Canoe Double during the 2012 Olympic Games. Picture: Getty Images

It is December in Glasgow but Tim Baillie has warmed his audience with talk of a different season, one which will arrive much later when the city's Pinkston Watersports Centre is completed and that section of the Clyde Canal is churned by artificial rapids and dozens of eager paddles.

Baillie's remains strapped to his car, a series of construction delays and necessary adjustments of the design pushing back the date for the project to be finished and yesterday leaving an Olympic champion to simply dip into a presentation about the site. The heavy skies are the closest the Scot comes to getting wet.

His place at the top of canoe slalom has long since taken the 34-year-old south to Nottingham but he is still at home guiding others through the nuances of the sport. The journey he has taken since last summer has not always been as smooth and at times has proven much more difficult to navigate, though, Baillie leaving London 2012 to make his way back to the realities of a sport which can capsize even those buoyed by success. The Aberdeen-born canoeist had been riding high in an open-top bus initially, one of the perks of winning the gold medal in a dramatic C-2 Olympic final, although his progress has since been sunk by an injury to English crew-mate Etienne Stott.

The pair had crossed the line in London just 0.36 seconds ahead of the other British C-2 team - which took silver and included Scotsman David Florence - and it would take another split second for Baillie to be stranded once more on dry land, Stott dislocating his shoulder while they fought to retain first place midway through this season's World Cup campaign. It has left them separated from competition and unsure of a return in time for the start of the next campaign.

Public appearances have offered Baillie his own sling, then, the Scot paddling instead into sporting projects which had crashed loudly against British shores following the Games last summer, but which can seem at risk of receding again into a sea of similar initiatives all competing for attention. "We've had a lot of interest since the Olympics and we've been doing our best to get the most benefit out of it for the most people. It's always nice to share the buzz," says the Scot, who spoke yesterday at an event at Pinkston held by Glasgow Chamber of Commerce.

"It's been a very big change for Etienne and myself [after the Olympics] particularly, as someone like Dave [Florence] had medalled in Beijing and so had a more of an idea what it would be like after London and was a wee bit more organised to deal with it. It's still quite hard to believe it actually happened and the time since hasn't quite been how I expected it would be. It has actually been quite busy and I thought it might be more of a non-stop party, just basking in your glory."

It is tempting to assume that Baillie had spent some time pickling in his success since there seems little chance that he had remained dry in the hours after he stepped back off the podium on the banks of the Lee Valley course. There has been an inevitable retreat from the full glare of the public spotlight too, given that canoe slalom is unable to hold the same attention it had during the Olympics - a reality which is sobered further by the lack of a dedicated facility in Scotland to help coax younger generations out on to the water.

It is perhaps not surprising that Baillie gets a buzz from reviewing the progress being made in Glasgow, then. "It's becoming a reality -they've had some setbacks, some delays and the course isn't quite running yet but I guess that is quite common to a lot of building projects in Britain," he says. "I can't wait to get using it, get people training on it and getting local kids amped on canoe slalom . . . it's a very exciting time for our sport and if this one is successful then, who knows, we might even get a few more built in Scotland."

For now the water is still and that ambition remains obscured in murkier depths, although Baillie can see hope reflected in the medal he won last summer. Over a year has passed since the Scot got his hands on Olympic gold and it has never seemed far from his reach since. He would also find a quip close by yesterday for one who pretended to try and nick it.

"Why do you think I'm wearing running shoes? Just in case . . ."

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