Slalom Canoeing: David Florence focus turns to doubles after hopes swamped at Gate 18


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The Independent Online

The dream of an individual gold medal is over, but David Florence is determined to use the disappointment of his failure in the canoe slalom yesterday to drive him to success alongside Richard Hounslow tomorrow.

After Florence won the silver medal in the men's C1 event in Beijing four years ago, there was quiet confidence he would be able to reach the top step of the podium at London 2012. In the end, he did not even make the final, finishing only 10th when a place in the top eight of the semi-final was required.

Prior to Beijing, the Scot applied to become an astronaut via the European Space Agency, so he had some idea already of what it is to return to Earth with a bump. Besides, Florence is only two accomplished runs away from being sky-high again.

He and Hounslow will tackle the semi-finals of the C2 discipline – a doubles rather than a singles event – hopeful of a happier outcome. Florence will aspire, at least, to challenge for a medal, instead of simply watching as Tony Estanguet took individual gold, the Frenchman's third after his victories in Sydney in 2000 and Athens four years later. Slovakia's defending champion, Michal Martikan, won only bronze this time as Sideris Tasiadis, from Germany, claimed silver.

"I'm very fortunate, because most people in my position now would not have another chance to challenge for a place in the final and an Olympic medal," said Florence. "I am lucky I have that and I will be going into that to give it my ultimate best.

"Of course, it is very disappointing. For the last four years this is what I have wanted to achieve. This has been what every day of my life has been about, but the thing about competing in a sport like canoe slalom is that you get so used to massive highs and big disappointments.

"Any athlete in that field, no matter how good, will have had huge disappointments. It is a part of the sport you have to accept. I am pretty practised at putting things out of my mind, and it would be pretty silly to let a huge disappointment today affect me for what is another fantastic opportunity.

"We will be competing against guys who have not had the opportunity to get a medal yet and I might as well approach that event as a stand-alone and give it my all."

Florence began his run smoothly, and was the quickest of all competitors in the first split. But he became gradually less precise as he moved down the course, and the two-second penalty he received for hitting Gate 18 proved decisive.

That misjudgement meant Florence's time was 106.16sec. Had he managed to avoid the contact, he would have finished sixth and fought for a medal.

Florence's disappointing show was another example of a strong home contender failing to deliver on pre-Games expectations for Great Britain. Is the home crowd, so forceful in their support for British athletes, making these men and women too tense before they perform?

"I can't speak for anyone else, because I don't know them and I don't know how they approach things, but it has not affected me," Florence insisted. "I don't know what goes on in other sports but the crowd were not detrimental to my performance. I didn't qualify because I didn't do a good enough run. The crowd has been fantastic, their support amazing. I'm just sorry for them that I wasn't able to get into the final so they could shout for me again."