Boxers safely through on day one
Olympics: Yesterday's first morning of London 2012 yielded a gold medal for China before noon, but the Irish contingent, boxers apart, found the going a little harder than Yi Siling and her 10-metre air rifle.
Sanita Puspure was the only success story from the Irish camp in the morning, after she made the quarter-finals of the women’s single sculls after coming through the heats with the minimum of fuss at Eton Dorney.
The 30-year-old, originally from Latvia, was never likely to win a heat containing New Zealand powerhouse Emma Twigg, but an excellent start had her narrowly in front after 250 metres.
Twigg’s power soon began to tell and Puspure was also overtaken by Lithuania’s Donata Vistartaite. However, with the top four of the six starters qualifying automatically for Tuesday’s quarters, Puspure was able to hold on to third place without expending too much energy and is in good shape going into the next round.
Her time of 7:49.35 was some 20 seconds ahead of her nearest challenger, a fact that will give her real confidence when she returns to the water on Tuesday.
Belfast judoka Lisa Kearney, who received a bye into the last 16, was drawn against China’s Shugen Wu at the ExCel Arena. Despite giving away ten places in the world rankings, she forced a draw after five minutes to take the bout into overtime.
However, Shugen ended Kearney’s games when she came up with an Ippon to win on a "golden score" and advance to the quarter-finals. Kearney left the arena with her head held high and believes the experience will stand to her in future Games.
“I performed well, but I am just 23, and this is the start of things to come,” she said after the fight. “It was really good experience, and I hope to compete in the 2016 Olympics and the ones after that.”
Barry Murphy has until Thursday to get over a poor performance in the 100 metres breaststroke, the Dubliner’s strongest discipline. Murphy could only manage a time of 1:01.57 at the Aquatic Centre yesterday to trail home in last place in his heat.
Murphy, who felt he had not brought his best form in breaststroke into these Games, will now turn his attention to the 50m freestyle on Thursday where he is hoping for an improvement.
“Thankfully it is not my only event,” he said after his opening swim. “I’ve got the 50m freestyle where I’ve been showing good speed all year. I can forget about breaststroke now and start concentrating on the freestyle, which I haven’t been doing for a week or two.”
The 26-year-old will at least be hoping to post a personal best in that event, something he failed to achieve in the breaststroke.
“There’s good things and bad things,” he said of his performance today. "That’s the fastest time I’ve done in the morning, my second-fastest ever in the event. At the same time, this is the Olympic Games and you want to be coming in and swimming lifetime bests and ready to go.”
Gymnast Kieran Behan got off to an encouraging start on the floor, but late slips on two closing moves proved costly for the Croydon athlete. With just two tumbling passes left in his 70 second floor routine, the nerves got to him and he failed to land his penultimate pass cleanly.
Following that, he wobbled badly on his final pass, an extremely difficult triple-twisting somersault. His score of 13.966 was just not enough to secure him a spot in the top eight qualifiers who will go through the individual floor routine next week but until the day’s end of competition, his position is still unknown.
Behan had mixed emotions, saying: “Today has been an extraordinary day. When I woke up in the morning with all the emotions that I was feeling, the only clear thought in my mind was that it is finally my dream coming true.”
Despite the disappointing score, Behan felt extremely proud to be a part of the London 2012 Olympics. “I am a fighter. This is definitely not the end. I’ve seen worse in life. And I can do better. I’ve seen success in a short span of time, and my focus has always been on Rio 2016.”
Things began to look up in the afternoon, when bantamweight John Joe Nevin was a comfortable winner over Dane Dennis Ceylan and progressed to the last 16 with a 21-6 win at the ExCel Arena.
Team captain and middleweight Darren O’Neill came up against a tough Nigerian opponent in the shape of Muideen Akanji, but won comfortably on the scorecards by 15 points to six after finding his range in the second round. He will face German Stefan Hartel, who beat Puerto Rican Enrique Collazo Pelaiz 18-10, on Thursday (2.45pm).
Cyclists David McCann (54th), Nicholas Roche (88th) and Dan Martin (89th) all took part in the 250km road race, but all three finished in the main peloton as home charge for glory was halted by Kazakhstan's Alexandr Vinokourov.
Mark Cavendish's, the world champion and winner of 23 Tour de France stages, was among the favourites for the event, which included nine ascents of Surrey's Box Hill, but despite phenomenal support from his four British team-mates, a late breakaway stayed clear and Vinokourov won the sprint for the line, ahead of Colombia's Rigoberto Uran. Norway's Alexander Kristoff was third.
In the three-day eventing, Germany lead the way after the first day of the dressage competition with Ingrid Klimke and Dirk Schrade taking the top two spots. Ireland’s Aoife Clark (Master Crusoe) said her “heart sank” when she had to follow Schrade’s commanding performance, but she put in an impressive performance to finish in 12th place.
She said: “It’s a little bit daunting going in after the current leader, my heart sank a bit when I saw his score. But I’m thrilled with the horse. It’s our first championship so to go in there and do a good test was great. I loved the atmosphere. I know the horse really well, and I trust him not to blow up and to really try when he goes in.”
Joseph Murphy (Electric Cruise) held 22nd spot and Michael Ryan (Ballylynch Adventure) 30th while half of the field will be put through their paces tomorrow before the cross country and show jumping disciplines.
In action today:
Rowing : Depending on yesterday's results in the heats, Sanita Puspure could be back in the water as early as Sunday morning in the repechage. That’s the worst case scenario with Puspure aiming for a place in Tuesday’s quarter-finals instead.
Swimming: Sycerika McMahon, silver medallist at the European Championships over 50m, will be making her Olympic debut. With the slowest qualifying time in Heat 4, it will be a major achievement for the Portaferry teenager to advance to Sunday evening’s semi-finals (starting at 7.30pm).
Equestrian: The final two members of the eventing team, Camilla Speirs and Mark Kyle, will be judged on the second day of the dressage competition. Speirs will be put through her paces at 11.52am with Kyle due at 3.10pm.
Sailing: Peter O’Leary and David Burrows need no introduction to the Weymouth having won gold in a pre-Olympic regatta last month. The Dublin-based duo take to the water for the first of at least 10 races in the Star class at 1.35pm, with the second taking place at 2.50pm.
Canoeing: Eoin Rheinisch, who missed out on a medal by the narrowest of margins in Beijing, goes in the heats of the K1 Slalom on Sunday lunchtime. The 32-year-old has not had the ideal preparation with injuries taking their toll but should certainly hope to advance to Wednesday’s semi-finals.
Badminton: World number 44 Chloe Magee opens her Olympic campaign in the round robin format against Pi Hongyan of France, a former world number two. Regardless of this result, Magee will get another bite at the apple when she meets Egypt’s Hadia Hosny on Tuesday.
Boxing: Adam Nolan is on the night shift at the Excel Arena, with the Bray Garda not due in the ring until after 10pm when he will meet Ecuador’s Carlos Sanchez Estacio.