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Canoeing: British sprint kayaker Ed McKeever storms into semi-finals


British sprint kayaker Ed McKeever stormed into the semi-finals of the 200m competition today as he won his heat in a time of 35.087 seconds.

Dubbed the "Usain Bolt of the water", the 28-year-old from Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, is tipped for a gold medal.

He led his heat from the start at Eton Dorney, seeing off a late challenge from Serbia's Marko Novakovic, who finished second. Hungary's Miklos Dudas was third.

McKeever, current world silver and European bronze medallist, qualified for the semi-finals in the fastest time.

Britain's Richard Jefferies, 25, from Nottingham, also successfully negotiated his heat in the men's 200m single canoe, finishing third behind Russia's Ivan Shtyl and Germany's Sebastian Brendel.

Meanwhile 22-year-old Jess Walker, from Hampton Hill, London, qualified after finishing fourth in her heat in the women's K1 200m, behind Spain's Theresa Portela-Rivas, who won the heat.

In the men's two-man kayak, Liam Heath and Jon Schofield, finished in second place behind the Belarusian pairing.

McKeever then won his semi-final in a time 35.617, one tenth of a second faster than his main rival, the Canadian Mark de Jonge.

McKeever marked his victory by turning to the grandstands and pumping his fists.

Speaking after his race, McKeever said: "Obviously it's nice to win your semi-final, you get a nice central lane for tomorrow's race and I am really looking forward to it tomorrow.

"I see it's forecast that it's for a headwind tomorrow so that could mean slower times but I have done lots of fitness work over the winter, so hopefully I came out alright.

"Obviously the games kicked off two weeks ago. We have been on a training camp so we are not hanging around waiting and I think it has worked really well."

He added: "I did watch a bit of the horse dressage, which is unique for me."

Meanwhile, Richard Jefferies finished sixth in his semi-final and will not contest a medal tomorrow.

Jefferies missed out on the final of the men's individual canoe, finishing sixth. The result means he also misses the B final.

Walker qualified in second for the women's 200m kayak final tomorrow, while Heath and Schofield will contest for a medal in the men's two-man kayak final after finishing second in their semi-final.

Speaking after missing out on tomorrow's final, Jefferies said: "It felt like it was normal to me but they jumped up on me. I don't really know what happened. For some reason, I didn't get out of the blocks as well as I normally do so it just left me with a lot of work to do.

"The thing that was bothering me the most was that the wind kept picking up and dropping. It was lot stronger for the first heat and then dropped off a lot for the second."

Walker said she was relieved to get through to the final after being nervous ahead of the race.

She said: "I knew I had the easier semi so that if I didn't make the top two, I wasn't getting in, that third place wouldn't be fast enough. When I crossed the line, I thought I was third, that the Japanese girl had got me. If I race my best tomorrow, I will be happy with that."

Schofield, from Clitheroe, Lancashire, said: "We gave the Russians too much on the start so we are going to try and rectify that. The crowd was absolutely incredible, it was quite emotional having that kind of support with people willing you on.

"We have to put everything out of our minds and focus on something. We have been rehearsing the rhythm at the start so we can stay really tightly together so there is no second guessing what the rhythm is going to be. We have been practising it enough times so we just have to execute it."

Heath, 27, from Guildford, Surrey, said: "We are athletes, our dream and ambition is for a medal so we will be going out with all guns blazing tomorrow. We are fairly confident but will take each race as it comes."