GB canoeing duo strikes gold
Tuesday, 21 June 2011
June 21 - Liam Heath and Jon Schofield stormed to victory in the K2 200 metres demolishing a quality field to retain their European crown at the 2011 European Senior Canoe Sprint Championships in Belgrade.
Following a shaky start in the heats, where Schofield's blade slipped on the first stroke, the pairing refocused ready to battle it out to defend their title.
Blasting away from the start Heath and Schofield worked fluidly together taking an early lead, leaving the rest of the field in chase.
They crossed the finish line clearly ahead of the 2007 world champions from Belarus to take the gold medal and the European crown for the second year running.
"I'm feeling really good right now, we walked away on Saturday pretty confident despite our disastrous start, and went out there on Sunday and nailed it, which followed through to a strong second half," Heath said.
"Our preparations up to the race have been flawless; we just stayed focused and relaxed and delivered what we have practiced a million times."
Earlier in the day Ed McKeever opened GB Canoeing's medal tally winning bronze in the K1 200 metres.
With high hopes of retaining his European title, McKeever failed to get his usual fast start but demonstrated champion traits to power himself back into the race and win the bronze medal.
McKeever commented: "I'm obviously disappointed to not come away with the win, but there is no shame in losing to people of that calibre.
"I've got eight weeks to the Worlds and am looking forward to getting a solid block of training in and there is no better motivation than being beaten."
With four Olympic discipline finals for the women's team, a medal seemed on the cards but with tough competition it wasn't to be GB's day.
Following a poor start in the K1 500m, Rachel Cawthorn struggled to get her boat up and running, leaving her chasing the field all the way to the line, finishing in ninth place.
It was a similar story for the K2 pairing of Lani Belcher and Angela Hannah, who also finished in ninth.
With the intensity and calibre of competition increased, the K4 of Abigail Edmonds, Jessica Walker, Hayleigh Mason and Louisa Sawers had their work cut out to pull themselves into the race after a slow start, but grafted hard together to cross the line in sixth.
With one race already under her belt, Walker was back on the start line for the K1 200m final, in a tight race she fought hard to finish in eighth.
In the women's K1 5,000m event Belcher went out to defend her European title, but with an outstanding performance from the Belarusian paddler, Maryan Paltaran, Belcher had to settle for the silver making it three medals for GB Canoeing.
After only three-and-a-half years in the sport, Richard Jefferies showed a step up in performance finishing third in C1 200 metre B final.
Having competed in the C1 1,000 metre semi-final, James Train lined up for the second to last race of the Championship - the C1 5,000m final.
Staying in amongst the racing he finished in ninth place, bringing a close to the 2011 European Championships for GB Canoeing.
Head coach Brendan Purcell commented on the days racing: "Unbelievable racing from the K2 as they dominated from the start leaving the field in chase.
"Ed underlined his champion qualities following his poor start to stay in the race and win the bronze.
"The women's racing was tough today and it shows the high level of competition out there, mistakes were made and we know there is some work to be done, but with all the boats qualifying straight into the finals we know we have the quality.
"It's now just about going away and working with the support teams and coaches and filling in the gaps - all is still on track and looking good for Olympic qualification at the World Championships in August."