Reeves revels in delayed bronze

Helen Reeves's conversation with the press was rudely interrupted after her K1 Kayak final here yesterday, but she could hardly have been more delighted.

Helen Reeves's conversation with the press was rudely interrupted after her K1 Kayak final here yesterday, but she could hardly have been more delighted.

After initially finishing fourth at the Hellinikon Complex, she learned that she had become the first British woman to win an Olympic kayak medal from team-mates who burst in shouting: "Bronze! Bronze!"

The prize was hers by just three hundredths of a second after a judges' recount discovered that France's Peggy Dickens, originally third, was due six penalty seconds rather than four because she had touched an extra gate on her way down the winding, white-water course.

"It was horrible when it first came up as fourth," said the 23-year-old who was born in Fleet, Hampshire, but now lives in Nottingham. "But I had to wait for confirmation. It's a special feeling and I'm so proud."

Reeves, who recently studied photography at Nottingham Trent University, was very nearly not in the picture after requiring three shoulder operations between 1998 and 2000.

"My left shoulder kept popping out, and when I dislocated it at the 2000 European Championships I didn't really think I would get back to paddling," she said. "It was the third time and it had been so tough coming back each year I had to question what I was doing, but it has made me who I am today. I've had four summers off due to the injuries, but I want to dominate the sport and this is a great start."

Lying fifth after the first run of the day Reeves, who earned an 11th-hour Olympic selection by winning a World Cup event in Spain, attacked the course vigorously, and after picking up four penalty seconds for touching gates two and six, recovered to finish without further problems.

It was then a case of watching and waiting, hoping that two of the remaining four competitors would come in slower. First Germany's Jennifer Bongardt and then Dickens obliged. The gold went to Slovakia's world No 1, Elena Kaliska, who finished with 210.03 points, with Rebecca Giddens of the US taking silver with 214.62 and Reeves the bronze with 218.77.

"I hit a few gates early on, but parts of that second run were awesome. I really enjoyed racing in front of so many people. I didn't find it intimidating at all," she added.

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