By Tom Harle, Sportsbeat

Katie Dabson believes her French rivals are still within reach despite the Olympic hosts sweeping the board at the European Championships.

Dabson, who races in the Formula Kite class, finished 9th in a morale-boosting display at Mar Menor, Spain.

She was one of three British kiters in the top 10 but the podium was swept by France, another dominant display to boost confidence ahead of their home Olympics this summer.

“We’re not too worried about it,” insisted Dabson. “This has been a super unusual year in terms of results and this was the French trial for Olympic selection.

“That’s not to take anything away from them because the Frenchies are all really fast and strong, but our goals coming into Europeans were very different.

“We’re trying to take lessons away from it and we’re coming away with confidence that what we’re doing is working. The level of the fleet is ramping up pretty quickly and we’re still very much in the mix.”

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Despite finishing fourth at last year’s World Championships, the key Olympic qualifier, Dabson will not feature at the Olympics with Ellie Aldridge already earning Team GB selection.

137 kiters from 39 nations descended on the largest salt-water lagoon in Europe for the first major event of Olympic year in the boat class, that will make its debut in Paris.

Mar Menor is known for fast racing but conditions varied throughout the event.

“It was really good to get time in all of the different conditions,” said Dabson.

“All of our winter training has been in wavey stuff, so spending some time of the flat water was super useful and we learned a lot from it. The variety in conditions is the best thing that could have happened.”

Ninth place was an upgrade for Dabson on last year’s 16th place at European level, when the Championships were held in Portsmouth.

Dabson now heads home for two weeks before heading to Hyeres in France for the World Championships in early May.

“I was super happy to make it into the semi-finals,” said Dabson. “My start wasn’t as good as it could have been and I wasn’t kiting as well as I could have done.

“But it was great to get into the semi-finals and get some experience doing those. You really can’t replicate that in training, the pressure and the other riders. That was one of the most valuable parts of it, using it for experience.

“We came in with some specific goals and trying to learn some stuff from other riders and it’s been super successful in that respect.”

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