THERE must be something in the Scottish water that has made this country’s canoeists particularly hardy.

Fiona Pennie goes into this weekend’s European Canoe Slalom Championships, which begin in Prague today, as one of the more experienced paddlers and alongside her compatriot, triple Olympic medallist, David Florence, who will also compete this weekend, the pair have both been competing on the international stage for close to two decades each.

For many, that kind of longevity would have seen their love of the sport diminish somewhat, as well as make a severe dent in an athlete’s drive and motivation. But the 35-year-old from Perthshire is, she believes, in as good shape as she has ever been as she heads into the first international competition of the season.

“I still have the same drive as always,” she said.

“You always have new goals to aim for and new technical aspects to work on. The sport is always moving forward so it keeps it interesting and there’s always something to work on.

“I feel like I am still improving - techniques are always evolving and as the boys begin to pick up those techniques, the girls then follow. There’s a lot to be learned and so in that respect, I feel like I definitely am improving. And I’m as strong as I’ve ever been, if not stronger than I’ve ever been.”

Pennie has pedigree when it comes to major championships - she has four World Championship medals to her name as well as six European Championships medal including European gold in 2013. One of those World Championship medals bodes particularly well for this weekend’s championship as she won silver in 2006 on the very course that will host the competition over the next three days.

And while nothing is guaranteed in canoeing, Pennie admits that she is feeling in confident mood.

“Things are good - it’s all coming together now,” said the K1 paddler.

“I had a bit of an elbow injury going into selection so I wasn’t 100 percent there. But I’ve had a good four week block and am feeling in good shape.

“We were in Prague the other week practicing on the course and so that was good to get familiar with the water out there.

“I think you have to go in believing you can win it. There are probably about 15 people who are capable of winning the Europeans so you have to believe that you’re one of them. And so while I think that, you have to concentrate on putting out your best run and just focusing on each gate and see what result you get at the end of it.

“I know what it feels like to win it so certainly, getting a medal or even winning it is definitely a possibility. Any medal would be nice but it’s going to be a tough event.

So much can happen in this sport so you have to take it one gate at a time.”

That Pennie is still competing on the international stage is even more impressive considering the strength of the British team, making selection for the national squad far from certain despite the Scot’s experience. Pennie’s compatriots Mallory Franklin is a world champion while Kimberley Woods is a European champion and so Pennie, a two-time Olympian, knows she must fight hard merely to secure a spot in the British team.

But that level of competition does, she admits, keep her motivated.

“The strength of the team definitely pushes you on,” she said.

“The younger ones are coming through and there’s definitely a lot of competition there. And there’s some others who will be breaking through soon too so it keeps you on your toes.

“It’s been really strong in GB for quite a while - ever since 2008 there’s been tough competition for spots so I think I’m pretty used to the pressure of having someone else right there. But I just try to concentrate on what I’m working on and on what I’m trying to improve.

“I enjoy chasing the boys and trying to learn from them and so I look forward like that rather than looking over my shoulder.

“If you look too much at what others are doing, you could start to lose belief in yourself so you just have to focus solely on what you’re doing.”