By Crystelle Coulon

Meet the sprint-kayaking newcomer who has managed to reach the top of her game in just two years. Wow.

Name Naomi Flood, 25
Lives Gold Coast
Winnings Bronze medal at the 2011 Canoe Sprint World Championships

Q You’re a former ironwoman champion, turned sprint kayaker. How did you make the switch?
A “One of the NSW Institute of Sport kayaking coaches was actually a member of my surf club and about three years ago he suggested I give it a go. Initially I was hopeless and hated it, but he encouraged me to stick with it.”

Q Was the challenge part of the reason you stuck with it?
A “Yes. A big reason for switching sports was that I’d done everything I wanted to do in Ironwoman – I’d won the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain series in 2009, a few world titles and the nationals – I just didn’t have the passion for it anymore. Moving to kayaking was starting a totally new challenge.”

Q You’ve only been sprint kayaking for two years, but you’ve already bagged a world championship medal – what are your tips for succeeding so quickly?
A “Having short-term, attainable goals. Instead of saying: ‘I’m going to be number one in three months time,’ look at it like this: ‘If I lose a bit of weight, my boat will be lighter and go faster, so one thing I can work on is losing a kilo or two by doing more cardio and watching what I eat.’ Another tip is to have goals for every session. When I started out I’d think: ‘I’m going to try and keep up with this girl today,’ and the next session I’d try and overtake her.”

Q What's your training schedule in the lead-up to the Games?
A “Right now I’m doing three to four sessions a day, totalling four to six hours. That’s made up of paddling, boxing, body-weight exercises, running, cycling, surf ski paddling, swimming and weights.”

Q What gets you through the pain barrier?
A “Last season when I was paddling the 1000 metres, I broke the race down into 250 metre sections and dedicated each one to four different areas of my life – my parents, my coach, my partner and lastly to all the people who believed in me. That gave me something to focus on and push for during each part of the race.”

Q How do you handle nerves on race days?
A “I calm myself down by listening to music, chatting to the coaches and keeping the atmosphere light. They say when you get to the starting line it’s 90 per cent mental and 10 per cent physical. Everyone does the same training, so really it’s about who can keep it together best on the day.”