With deep grey skies overhead and the wind whistling through the trees, David Florence pulled up the shutters on the tricky conditions on the opening day of the canoe slalom and engaged cruise control.
Two silver medals, one from Beijing, one from London, are among the experiences that have given the Scot a degree of inner calm and he shrugged off the breezes knocking the poles from one side to another to produce a flawless start to his challenge here on the purpose-built course in Deodoro.
It took him 94.11 seconds to negotiate the waters, almost a second better than his closest C1 challenger Matej Benus of Slovakia, earning Florence the luxury of passing on his second scheduled run with his spot in the top 14 secure.
“What was important for me was to get through,” he confirmed. “I don’t know if it was a marker.
“Quite a lot of the guys were having difficulties out there. But to win the first run is great. First or 14th doesn’t matter.”
He has been here for two weeks already, testing out the twists and the turns of the waters, picking up insights and taking copious notes.
Nothing really prepares you for the days of reckoning, he admitted.
Ever since he first took up his paddle in the Water of Leith near his home in Edinburgh, there has always been something new to learn. “There are obviously an infinite number of possibility of gates so we practise a lot of similar moves,” he confirmed. “But at the same time.
“None of them are exactly what we practised. It is new but I know the water very well – as do all the other guys. Without that, it would be very difficult.”
Florence will switch back to the C2 today for the opening heat of his doubles bid with partner Richard Hounslow. Four years ago, they came so close to striking gold and there will be a reliance on their established chemistry once again.
“We don’t spend as much as a lot of the other crews because I compete in the singles as well, so we generally only train once a day in the doubles boat, which can be quite a nice thing – to get a break from each other and come back from it fresh,” Florence said.
“Until recently, Richard competed in the single category as well so we always had something else going on. A big part of C2 is really getting to know how each of you paddle and be able to react accordingly, keeping each other in sync and get your timing together in the boat and work together.”
Meanwhile, Fiona Pennie will go on a quest for redemption when the K1 slalom kayaking starts today with the Scot banishing her omission from the team for London 2012 from her mind.
The 33-year-old from Crieff, who went to the Beijing Games in 2008, rebounded to take silver at last year’s world championships and feels able for more. “I’m a very competitive person and very determined,” she said.