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Canoe sprint: Team GB's Tim Brabants begins defence of Olympic title with qualification for final


Defending Olympic champion Tim Brabants thanked the Eton Dorney crowd today for their support after he scraped into the kayak sprint final.

With the strong cross-winds at Eton Dorney, the 35-year-old was drawn in lane one in the semis - the most exposed to the elements - and battled to make the top four.

He was outside of qualification at halfway, but thanked the thousands gathered in the grandstands for their support over the last 200 metres, which he said helped push him over the finish line four hundredths of a second faster than the Bulgarian Miroslav Kirchev.

Brabants, from Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, has already admitted it will be tricky to successfully defend his title on Wednesday.

After ripping his right pectoral tendon during a training session at the end of 2010, the accident and emergency doctor has battled to return to full fitness and was noticeably slower than the leading sprinter over 1,000m, Canadian Adam van Koeverden.

Brabants said: "I knew I had my work cut out but the roar of the crowd is incredible and they just shouted 'go, go, go' all the way to the end.

"The crowd is incredible. You hear the rowers talking about it because we're staying in the same place. It's an amazing experience having the crowd there.

"In lane one, I could really appreciate that. The noise was phenomenal."

In the women's K4 500m, Jess Walker, Angela Hannah, Louisa Sawers and Rachel Cawthorn made it through to the final.

Despite finishing second in their heat, the team did not qualify automatically as a fastest loser as the second race was faster.

But they managed to fight for fourth place in the semi-final and qualify for Wednesday - a boost as the team has prioritised the K4 ahead of the individual events.

Hannah, 26, said: "We fought really hard in the heat and hoped to go through in that one but we did what we needed to do in the semi-final."

Walker, 22, said the team had improved noticeably since they decided to switch the order in which they sit in the boat.

She had been in the second seat but was now driving the team at the front of the boat.

Walker said: "We have improved a lot. We have changed our crew around to make it stronger and I am really pleased with that change. It was a brave decision to make."

But there was disappoint for Richard Jefferies, who failed to qualify in the men's C1 1,000m final.

Spotted through the talent identification scheme, the 25-year-old from Loughborough, Leicestershire, was always a rank outsider and is concentrating his efforts on the 200m sprint event later in the week.

He said: "It was really good just to be out there. The 200m start is next to all that (the grandstands) so it is good to get in that zone.

"All my 200m stuff that I have been doing, I am really confident of doing well."