Dubbed “Usain Bolt on water,” Britain’s Ed McKeever powered to victory in the men’s K1 200m in front of thousands of screaming fans yesterday to take the first gold awarded in the new shorter and more explosive Olympic distance.
McKeever, a trainee accountant from the southwestern English town of Bradford on Avon, said that having won gold he was now more willing to accept the nickname given to him by the British media.
“Luckily I’ve got the gold medal to go with it,” the unassuming winner told reporters on the side of the lake. “I’m more willing of that tagline.”
“After the start, I was kind of out clean and I just held on. My main emotion was probably relief,” he added.
The sprint over 200m, lasting about 36 seconds, is designed to increase interest in the sport, with the canoeists taking about three strokes per second in a fast and dramatic fight for the line.
McKeever, who had started the race as a favorite after emerging from the heats as the fastest qualifier, powered off the start in blustery head-wind conditions to take a lead over the rest of the field.
He punched the air as he crossed the line about 0.25 seconds ahead and ran his hands through the water, before waving to the grandstands.
Spain’s Saul Craviotto Rivero took the silver and Canada’s Mark de Jonge the bronze.
“This morning I woke up feeling like a kid at Christmas, waiting to get his presents, and I am going to go and get those presents in a minute,” McKeever told the BBC after his victory, nodding in the direction of the podium.