Jul 22 2008 by Gordon Bannerman, Perthshire Advertiser Tuesday
CRIEFF canoeist Fiona Pennie is hoping to make a splash at the Olympics.
The 25-year-old is set to fulfil a childhood dream after becoming one of the few Scots to make Team GB for Beijing.
Fiona honed her skills on Perthshire lochs before studying at Loughborough.
Successes include a bronze U23 European medal and silver at the Prague world championships two years ago.
The only blip in her sporting career was caused by a broken arm during season 2003/04.
Now based in Nottingham, Fiona has made the GB canoe slalom team.
She’s almost as comfortable on water as on land.
Mum was a champion flat water sprint paddler and toddler Fiona took to it like a duck to water.
Because she’s short sighted, Fiona has worn contact lenses for the last eight years.
Given the rough and tumble of white water rapids, Fiona often found them dislodging or even popping out during races. But it’s problem solved in advance of the trip to China.
Now Fiona can be fully focused on her medal bid after undergoing specialist eye surgery.
After consulting with the team doctor and her coach, Fiona recently opted for laser surgery.
She said: “A few seconds can make the difference between winning gold and not getting a medal at all.”
With so much resting on the success of the procedure, Fiona’s coach carried out extensive research before opting for the internationally renowned Midland Eye Institute in Solihull.
It was a race against time but Professor Shah, the consultant ophthalmologist, and staff agreed to open the clinic on a Saturday to enhance Fiona’s medal prospects.
He said: “Many people dislike the thought of injections or incisions of any kind especially near or in the eye.
“We use anaesthetic drops rather than injections and LASEK avoids incisions, so many people prefer this option.”
Following a short break from training, Fiona is now relishing the thought of being able to give 100 per cent without fear of losing sight of that all important finishing line.
Since being selected, her schedule has been a hectic mix of training, preparing for the trip and ensuring her own health and fitness is at its peak.
Fiona, who leaves for the Far East later this week, said the left eye is “perfect” and her right is making good progress.
And she’s convinced it will pay dividends in her bid to strike gold.