Final a bridge too far for Craig
Olympic canoeing:Ireland’s Hannah Craig, the first Irishwoman to make an Olympic canoeing final after a remarkable effort in the semi, finished 10th in the women’s K1 slalom at Lee Valley this afternoon.
The 29-year-old from Co Antrim, ranked 49th in the world before the Games, was unfortunately over 10 seconds slower in her second run after incurring six seconds in penalties when hitting gates five, nine and 16. Her time of 127.36 seconds saw her finish well adrift of eventual winner Emilie Fer of France (105.90 seconds).
Ultimately her semi-final time of 116.12 seconds would have been good enough for eighth in the final, but having broken new ground for Ireland, she's unlikely to have any regrets.
Craig set the early pace in the semi but drifted agonisingly down the rankings until Italy’s Maria Clara Giai Pron missed a gate and home favourite Lizzie Neave incurred too many penalties to see the her make history.Despite her blistering pace in the heats, Neave, ranked 12th in the world, was unable to replicate her form in the semi-final. She hit three gates, incurring six seconds worth of penalties and finished her run in 117.30 seconds, which left her in 12th place with a time of 117.30 seconds.
In tears as she spoke to reporters afterwards, she said: “I hit three gates and six seconds’ worth of penalties is just too much to make up. I just caught the first gate very, very slightly - it was the tiniest of touches - and the thing about this sport is you need to be so tight to the poles to get the right lines.
“Sometimes you are just that millimetre too close and you hit them. I am definitely not ready to stop yet. I have had a great experience here and if I can learn from it, I can come back fighting in four years’ time.”
Neave added: “I was confident, I was happy with what I was planning to go out there and do. Mostly, everything went to plan but it was just those three touches. It’s just this sport, sometimes you hit gates. It has been amazing, such a great experience and I learnt so much. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the result I was after but hopefully I can use the experience of this whole adventure to work towards Rio in 2016.”
The disappointment for the home crowd was shortlived, however, as Great Britain claimed gold and silver in the two-man canoe slalom. Etienne Stott and Tim Bailliewon gold in a time of 106.41 seconds, followed by Richard Hounslow and David Florence who registered a time of 106.77 seconds to claim silver.
It meant despair for three-time Olympic champions, twin brothers Pavol and Peter Hochschorner of Slovakia, who took bronze.
Baillie and Stott were first to go in the final and set the fastest time of the day, roared on by a capacity crowd of British canoe fans. The partisan spectators started cheering as the following Chinese crew and Polish crews hit gates, incurring costly penalties, and ranking themselves outside the medals.
The biggest threat to Baillie and Stott’s time came from the Slovakian twins, who had won gold in Sydney, Athens and Beijing, but they also hit a gate and in the end finished outside the British crew’s time. As Hounslow and Florence were last to run in the final, that guaranteed Britain a gold medal. The only question concerned whether they could beat their compatriots’ time.
They made the perfect start and were ahead at the first split, but coming out of the last gate they could not stay ahead of Baillie and Stott and lost out on gold by 0.36 seconds.