London 2012 Olympics: McKeever ready for blades battle with De Jonge in 200m sprint final
Britain’s Ed McKeever and Canada’s Mark de Jonge will battle it out with double blades on water in the first men’s kayak singles (K1) 200 metre final in Olympic history today.
The race is the fastest of four new medal events at the canoe sprint on Eton Dorney Lake. The other three will be the men’s canoe singles (C1), the women’s kayak singles (K1) and the men’s kayak doubles (K2). All the races replace 500m events with the speedier 200m sprint.
Although 2010 world champion McKeever set the fastest time of 35.087 seconds in the qualifying rounds, he lagged behind De Jonge in the semi-finals where both blasted to the line first in their heats.
The absence of current world champion Piotr Siemenowski from the final after he went out failed to boost the confidence of either the Canadian engineer from the Atlantic coastal city of Halifax or his British rival, McKeever, a trainee accountant from Bradford on Avon. “When one guy is missing, there’s another to take his place so there’s nothing to take for granted,” said McKeever after topping his semi-final two weeks before his 29th birthday.
On a blazing hot day with packed grandstands, the water was fast and the athletes basked in the kind of party atmosphere and spectator numbers that are pretty rare for the sport. Both De Jonge and McKeever said the cheering spectators added lustre and excitement to the event and hoped that the 200m sprint’s debut along the length of the Dorney grandstands would be a boost to the sport.
“It’s very exciting for me to watch and I think everyone’s pretty excited,” De Jonge said. “You can line up a whole crowd for the whole race and see the entire thing.”
In the men’s canoe or C1, the single-bladed version of the kayak in which competitors kneel in the boat rather than sit, France’s Mathieu Goubel will try to make amends for failing to reach the 1,000m final. “I put all my anger into this race,” said the 32-year-old after his semi-final. “Now I have a chance to make things right.”
In the women’s K1 singles, home-crowd favourite Jess Walker came second in her semi-final to qualify for a shot at the medals today. The 22-year-old Briton will be up against three-time Olympic kayak champion and 2010 world champion Natasa Douchev-Janics from Hungary. Walker failed to qualify for the final of the 500 in Beijing.
If Douchev-Janics wins today, she will push Hungary’s medal count to the top of the canoeing table, breaking a tie with Germany. “It’s very good that I won, but I still have some spare for the final,” said the 30-year-old, whose father Milan Janic won silver in kayaking at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 and who is married to a bronze medallist.
In the men’s K2, three-time European champions Liam Heath and Jon Schofield from Britain are in a tussle with Russian rivals Alexander Dyachenko and Yury Postrigay. “We gave the Russians too much at the start,” said Schofield after coming second to them in the semi-finals. “We need to rectify that tomorrow. We’re in the final – everything to play for.”
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Monday 20 May 2013
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