OLYMPICS / Barcelona 1992: Canoeing: Jamieson among might-have-beens: Guy Hodgson reports on the fate of a British canoeist's attempt to gain admission to an elite Canadian club

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The Independent Online
THE squashed frogs in the Canal de Castelldefels car park told the story that for some the 1992 Olympics has indeed been a matter of life and death. Britain's Eric Jamieson gave the appearance that canoeing was as serious yesterday, though of course it was not.

Jamieson, from Guildford in Surrey, had just finished second last in the 500m Canadian singles final and was about to be disqualified for veering too close to an opponent. He sat on the jetty, his head between his knees, and then lay flat, disappointment seeping from his prone body.

'I had a lousy race,' he said. 'Another bad start. That's two bad starts out of three. Brilliant.' He is 31 on Tuesday and, in his third Olympics, had harboured hopes of gaining a medal this time. Instead he had been out-paddled by the winner, Bulgaria's Nikolai Boukhalov, and a flotilla of opponents.

It had gone wrong right from the beginning. Jamieson is a quick starter but, aligned slightly askew, he had devoted the early seconds of the race to finding the right direction and lost three- quarters of a length. It was a handicap he had cast off by the half-way point and after 350 yards was actually in contention for the bronze.

The effort proved too costly, however, and when the final acceleration was required, for him it was missing. 'There is only so much fuel,' he said, 'and if you put in too much effort in an early part of the race there is a danger the tank will run dry.'

Jamieson, once a Britain white water team-mate of Richard Fox, switched to the Canadian variety - flat water and a kneeling stance a la Last of the Mohicans - in the early Eighties for two reasons: the latter was in the Olympics and it was a challenge. 'The Hungarians say that kayaks are for women and retired people, Canadian canoeing is for men,' he said. And to prove the point his first encounter with the more masculine variety had landed him in the water within the space of just six yards.

By the Los Angeles Olympics he had mastered the sport sufficiently to finish seventh in the 500m doubles and in Seoul reached the final of both the 500m and 1,000m singles. The graph of progression suggested something better; instead the line had flattened and it was a time for might-have-beens.

'If I'd been as good in 1984 as I am now I'd have won a medal,' Jamieson said. 'The Eastern bloc boycott meant they were up for grabs. Just look at the placings today, it's full of east Europeans.'

As he was vowing to return next year stronger and faster, a Spanish woman, one of the medal bearers in national costume, had noticed one amphibian on the dangerous side of the car park and carried it to the safety of the water. For a frog, at least, yesterday had a happy ending.

(Photograph omitted)