On the 14th of May, competitors from all over London gathered at the Lee Valley White Water Centre to participate in the London Youth Games and demonstrate their prowess at the kayak sprint and slalom. With the sun shining and representatives from across the capital gathering, it was going to be an exciting day…

Originally created for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, the London Youth Games was designed to be a one-off event, with the finals being held over one busy august weekend at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre. However, it proved to be immensely popular and returned as an annual event the following year. Over the next 20 years, more sports were added to the list and in 1999, separate competitions were added for kayaking, rowing and sailing. Three years later, the games was attended by the Queen as part of her Golden Jubilee and it has continued to grow, with its millionth competitor taking part in 2014. Celebrating its forty-fifth anniversary during the Queen’s platinum jubilee, the London Youth Games is growing ever more popular and with past competitors such as Mo Farah, Bradley Wiggins and Naomi Riches, who knows how many future household names could be competing this year?

The day began with the male slalom and the female sprint and everyone cheering on their teams, and everyone else's, as the races progressed. The kayak sprint, which is a 50m race where competitors paddle flat out to the finish, quickly provided excitement as the heats progressed, with some near photo-finish endings, as the paddlers who would compete in the final were decided. The slalom, which involves a 7 gate course which weaves through hanging poles, also had people cheering as the competitors raced through the gates, attempting to have the fastest time in order to qualify for the final, where eight people would race again for the medals. With penalties incurred if a paddler missed a gate or touched one with their paddle or boat, the competitors had to find the sweet spot between speed and precision.

Created for the London 2012 Olympics, the Lee Valley White Water Centre, who hosted the kayak competition of the London Youth Games this year, has seen its fair share of excitement and more, with five days of intense Canoe Slalom racing during the Olympics that culminated in a Gold and Silver for Team GB in a sensational final day. Just six weeks after the Games, Lee Valley opened to the public, offering white water rafting courses on both its Legacy and Olympic circuits. Also home to British Canoeing’s canoe slalom team, Lee Valley is a hub of talent which provides an atmosphere of pure excitement to the kayaking part of the London Youth Games.

To all of the participants' surprise, the medals were awarded in the ceremony at the end of the day by the 2016 Olympic Champion, Joe Clarke. After an impromptu Q&A session, the individual medals were presented for each category. The excitement then built as the team medals were revealed, with Bexley winning the team slalom, Richmond upon Thames winning the team sprint and the Respect the Games Award going to Redbridge. As the participants began to depart, with many sporting multiple medals, I had the opportunity to ask Joe what he thought the best aspect of the London Youth Games was.  “I think that the best thing about the London Youth Games is the participation because people from all different boroughs and all different backgrounds come together.” was his reply and I think that this expresses one of the main purposes of the Games as a promoter of sport for young people and an entrance into the world of competitive sport for those who wish to continue in the future.