Canoeing: Briton David Florence looking to go one better than Beijing and claim gold in today's final - Other events - Olympics - The Independent

Canoeing: Briton David Florence looking to go one better than Beijing and claim gold in today's final

 

To argue that any Olympic event is the most demanding, exhausting, or requires the most mastery is difficult. But there is a case to be made for canoe slalom, the mad single-paddled white-water descent, whose semi-final and final is this afternoon.

David Florence, the 29-year-old Scot who won the silver medal in Beijing, is one of 12 men who will be rushing down the 250 metre course, manoeuvring through the gates, trying to finish in the top eight to reach the final and win the medal from there.

While Florence already has an Olympic medal, he cannot be said to have seen it all before. Every canoe slalom course is different, and the mental challenge of learning every turn, gate and eddy during competition is inseparable from the physical challenge of moving the canoe around the course and through the 18 gates – six of them requiring the canoe to go upstream rather than down – as quickly as possible. Any gate hit means a two-second penalty, any gate missed means a prohibitive 50 seconds.

It is harder and less predictable than kayaking. While that provides a long two-bladed paddle, with the racer sitting down, canoeing gives only a short single blade, and must be done kneeling. This means that their weight is more central, making it easier to turn. And with a lighter bow than a kayak there is less speed in a straight line but more flexibility in different directions, which is the essence of the challenge.

“Getting a slalom C1 [single boat] to go where you want to go is pretty difficult when you first start,” Florence said. “There’s a huge amount of subtleties, of tiny little boat leans and boat edging and also the exact direction you’re pulling your paddle in. It takes a very long time to actually master it but when you do it’s amazing how well you can get the boat to go in a set direction with a lot of power even though you’re only paddling on one side.”

The course at the Lee Valley White Water Centre will certainly be difficult. Built specifically for this purpose, the 250 metre route descends 5.5metres from start to finish. Water is pumped down the course at a speed of 13,000 litres per second. The variable channels are made by moving the rapid blocks, big stone bricks which help direct the gradient and flow of the water. Florence describes it as a “fun place to race”, and he hopes it will provide him with as good memories as the course in Beijing.

Four years ago Florence came second in Beijing, losing only to the remarkably successful Slovak Michal Martikan, who won gold at the age of 17 in Atlanta – the first for independent Slovakia – before silver at Sydney and Athens. He is such a hero at home that he was given a presidential pardon in 2000 to avoid a prison sentence for manslaughter after killing a man while speeding. But Florence insists he is much stronger now.

“It’s a really different scenario,” Florence said. “For me that was four years ago. I’ve some many European competitions, I’ve done so much training and made so many improvements.” He is now ranked No 1 by the International Canoe Federation. As well as the individual campaign he has been competing too with Richard Hounslow in the pairs, the final for which are on Thursday, likely to be dominated by Pavol and Peter Hochschorner, the Slovakian twins who won gold in Sydney, Athens and Beijing.

But Florence’s focus today will be on the C1, and the hope that he might just upgrade his silver to gold. “I have never heard noise like that before,” he beamed after his successful heats. “The support was immense.”

Life and Style
tech
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week