Sat, Aug 04, 2012 - Page 19 News List

London 2012 Olympics: British duo pull off shock victory in canoe double

AP, WALTHAM CROSS, England

Britain’s Tim Baillie, left, and Etienne Stott paddle on their way to winning the canoe double final at the Lee Valley White Water Centre in Waltham Cross, north of London, on Thursday.

Photo: EPA

The pro-British crowd at the Lee Valley White Water Centre rose from their seats when they realized at least one of their canoes would win a medal.

They cheered even louder when it became apparent the dominant Hochschorner twins would not win yet another gold.

Then they went bonkers when it dawned on them that Britain would.

Silver too? Simply brilliant.

Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott of Britain won gold in the men’s canoe double slalom on Thursday. Then Britain’s David Florence and Richard Hounslow gave the host country a sweep of the top two spots by finishing second, just 0.36 seconds behind their countrymen.

“It’s weird, it doesn’t seem real. It’s a complete dream,” Stott said. “We did feel the pressure being in the final, but we just focused on our process and got on with it.”

Baillie and Stott were justified in feeling the heat heading into the finals.

It was nearly a foregone conclusion that Slovakia’s Pavol and Peter Hochschorner would blow away the field like they almost always do.

The Hochschorners have won 22 major international gold medals — including three in a row in Sydney, Athens and Beijing — but they had to settle for bronze. It was a stunning defeat for the Hochschorners, who have also won the last three world championships and are ranked No. 1 in the world.

The Hochschorners finished 1.87 seconds behind Baillie and Stott, in part because of a two-second penalty for hitting a slalom gate. The British canoes were only two out of the six that competed in the final to cross without picking up a penalty.

“We had a few really big mistakes. It was not a run for a gold medal,” Pavol Hochschorner said.

The Hochschorners were the fifth of six canoes to run. So all it took was some quick mathematics once that score was displayed for the crowd to figure out that the gold was certain for a British canoe.

After that, Florence and Hounslow’s run became a 106-second celebration for the British fans — and the pair nearly caught the winning boat, before falling centimeters short.

“Sitting on the start line, we knew Britain had a gold medal already. We are a team. We attacked it hard,” Hounslow said.

The women’s kayak slalom had the unfortunate task of following such an exciting men’s race about 20 minutes later, with Emilie Fer of France emerging as a surprise gold medal winner. Fer, seventh at the 2008 Beijing Games, finished in 105.90 seconds.

Australia’s Jessica Fox, daughter of five-time world champion Richard Fox of Britain and 1996 bronze medalist Myriam Fox Jerusalmi, took the silver.

Spain’s Maialen Chourraut won bronze and Slovakian Jana Dukatova, ranked No. 1 in the world, was sixth.

Fer said she had to tell her coach to stop telling her everybody else’s time while she was waiting to go.

Fer knew exactly what was needed to win.

“I took some risks because I had nothing to lose and I knew I needed to go fast,” Fer said.

Some thought the best pick of the day for Britain was Lizzie Neave, but she failed to qualify for the final.

Baillie, Stott, Florence and Hounslow more than made up for Neave’s poor run by denying the Hochschorners a fourth gold medal and turning the medal ceremony into a decidedly British affair.

“It couldn’t have gone more perfectly for our sport, to get two of us, two crews, on the podium,” Stott said. “It was amazing.”

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