Canoeing: Ed 'The Cleaver' McKeever cuts up field like Usain Bolt

Ed McKeever is quickly labelled the Usain Bolt of sprint canoeing after powering away and holding lead to win gold

eton dorney

Ed McKeever is not the most expressive of British gold medallists and not ready to declare himself a legend, though it was a small step towards self aggrandisement yesterday when, having burned his way to canoe sprint gold, he was willing to accept comparisons with Usain Bolt. He had been non-committal about that before his race, pointing out that "he's tall and I'm short".

The 28-year-old trainee accountant is not about to become seared across the national sporting psyche, even though Matthew Pinsent proclaimed him as Ed 'the Cleaver' McKeever early yesterday when foretelling that he would take the field apart. A holiday "by the seaside" is McKeever's rather quaint immediate ambition, after completing several tasks he signed up to in readiness for his own wedding in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, next month. He's organising the suit fittings and the transport, though he took the idea that canoes might feature rather literally. "The wedding's quite a long way from a river so that won't work…" There is no time to develop a feel for irony, for a good anecdote – or indeed for anything – when you're embarking on a pursuit of Olympic gold in the way that McKeever has. He first scented his opportunity four years ago when Olympic canoeing organisers decided to bring in the 200m canoe sprint in an attempt to introduce some different names to the podiums of a sport dominated by Tim Brabants, Adam van Koeverden and Eirik Larssen. McKeever could not make the Olympic team when 500m was the shortest event but this discipline was made for him. "I've always been a powerful, speedy athlete," McKeever reflected after winning his gold. "I was quite a good 500m paddler but obviously not an Olympic champion. I got away ahead but didn't always maintain it over longer distances."

It is McKeever's trademark to power ahead, with a giant first stroke unlike anything else known in one-man or two-man canoe sprinting. He often keeps that lead, demonstrating in those vital early seconds why physiologically he is "like a block of granite", as the canoe sprint head coach Brendan Purcell put it after the race. "When he is on that line and he puts down that first stroke, all that force is transferred into forward motion," Purcell added. "Most others will have a loss in the kinetic motion but Ed is little bit unique. He just holds himself in the position, locks himself and moves the boat. Everyone else uses a shorter smaller stroke."

The fractional hope for McKeever's competitors came at what is known in the sprint pursuit as the "second start" – between 25m and 100m – where that strong launch needs to be built into acceleration. Briefly, his challengers were quite close, but then he eased away again. "It was from 50m to 100m that he really put it down," Purcell said. "Once he got to 50m to go I thought it was in the bag."

McKeever's decision to wear an aerodynamic top adapted from those used by the British cyclists in these Olympics provides a revealing glimpse into the way the two elite sports have been sharing knowledge to gain the "marginal advantages" which Dave Brailsford, the British Cycling performance director never tires of talking about. Jon Schofield, who with Liam Heath took bronze yesterday in the two-man 200m sprint, revealed how the canoeists have also shared the benefit of Steve Peters, GB Cycling's silver-haired psychiatrist, but the two sports also share an obvious requirement to generate optimum force. In the 1,000m canoe sprint, the blade is in the water for 0.4 seconds and in the 200m for an even shorter period of time. McKeever has experimented with different paddles and looked closely at different aerodynamic advantages.

The sheer drive to win also took this rather awkward individual right up into Bolt's realm. "It was a little bit frustrating, watching everyone else go and win their medals while we were sitting in our hotel rooms watching," the champion reflected.

His explanation of how he was up at 5.30am "like a kid at Christmas… waiting to get my present" was not boastful, just factual. Purcell nodded, knowingly. "Olympic champions are champions for a reason," he said. "They have the whole package."

Having surpassed the medal target they set themselves and hit their more ambitious UK Sport "stretch target" the canoeists' successful Olympics has left them believing that they can become a force in the same way the cyclists have – despite competition from new places.

The Australian men's kayak four ended the European stranglehold with their gold, becoming only the first non- Europeans to win something at a Games where a boycott had not limited the field. The British, like the Germans and Hungarians, will not be getting their own way in Rio.

Head to head: McKeever vs Bolt

Ed McKeever

Age: 28

Height: 5ft 8in

Weight: 12st 6lb

200m time at this Olympics: 36.246sec

Number of strokes in 200m: 110

Average number of strokes per second: 3

Usain Bolt

Age: 25

Height: 6ft 5in

Weight: 14st

200m time at this Olympics: 19.32sec

Number of steps in 200m: 83

Average number of steps per second: 4

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice