Double dip at gold for Florence and Hounslow after weekend of drama
19:59 GMT, 15 April 2012
David Florence and Richard Hounslow will each make Olympic history at London 2012 by becoming the first slalom canoeists to compete for multiple medals at a single Games.
The pair are partners in the C2 discipline – canoeing for doubles – and also race individually, Florence in C1, the event in which he won silver at Beijing, and Hounslow in K1, the kayaking class. Rules allowing doubling-up only came into force after the last Olympics.
They secured their berths on a dramatic weekend of racing at the Great Britain trials at Lee Valley White Water Centre, the venue for the Games this summer.
Water performance: David Florence and Richard Hounslow compete at Lee Valley on Sunday
Both performed magnificently to win their solo categories – in the process Hounslow pulled off a shock to knock out Athens K1 silver medallist Campbell Walsh – before also coming out victorious in the C2 event.
Because each qualified individually, international rules allow Britain to field a second C2 team, which will be doubles specialists Etienne Stott and Tim Baillie. They lost the best of three series to Florence and Hounslow 2-1, finishing runners-up in the final race by just half a second, a slender margin in the sport.
Lizzie Neave won all three of her races to claim the women’s K1 spot in emphatic style.
'It’s fantastic,' said Florence, 29, of achieving the unique feat. ‘It has all finally come together now. 'It is a risk, of course, as if we had come away with nothing then people would have said that is really foolish. However, it is what I have wanted to do. I have found it exciting.
'The results we have got in the C2 meant we were right up there in every race. There is no doubt we have a good chance of a medal at London.'
Hounslow, 30, almost quit the sport after failing to qualify for Beijing four years ago. He said after the race: 'I am certainly glad I didn’t give up. David was the one who came to me and offered me the whole doubling up. I am grateful for that. Now we are going in both categories. It’s amazing. It hasn’t sunk in yet.
‘We have been training and working hard. This is only one step on the way to the final goal. We can move on and look forward to the summer's racing.’
Asked about the complexities of
switching between the two disciplines, he said: 'It’s pretty difficult
because I sit down in the kayak and kneel down in the canoe. There’s a
double paddle in my kayak, a single in my canoe.
it was a challenge, technically and physically they are different. It
was about getting the training balance right between the two categories.
Once I had that it was fine. I am paddling well in both categories. I’m
looking forward to going there this summer and seeing what I can do.'
Looking good: Lizzie Neave won all three of her races on Sunday
Hounslow and Florence were matched stroke for stroke by Baillie and Stott throughout the meet, but ultimately the latter pair only qualified because the former two also won their individual categories.
Baillie, 32, admitted it was an 'odd situation' and Stott, 33, conceded he was disappointed not to qualify by winning outright. But both were elated to be going to their first Games.
'It’s amazing, surreal,' Baillie added. 'We didn’t get much sleep last night. The support we’ve had over this weekend has been truly humbling.'
Stott said: 'I’ve thought about the Olympics a lot. When I think about the stadium on the back wall of this course, it’s going to be incredible. We’ll be fearless. We’ve shown we’ve got good speed.'
Florence denied the rival pair owed him a drink for his helping hand. 'We knew it would be tight,’ he said. 'The margins were so small every single day. To be honest, we owe them a drink as much as they owe us one. We have both pushed each other, it has been tough.
'Me and Tim have been friends for a long time before I took up C2. We thought that only one of us may go to the Games. So the fact that we both are is great.'
Neave, 25, believes racing the Olympic course under such make-or-break pressure stands her in good stead for a medal come the summer.
'Coming down on that final run there I was aware of how many people were on the bank,' she said. 'I know it’s going to be a lot bigger at the Olympics but to have that experience will be really helpful.
'After this weekend I know I’m capable of putting down four good runs on this course. If I race as well as I can, as I did on some of my runs this weekend, then I’m capable of getting a medal. But anything can happen in slalom.'