Stewart starts kayak campaign
5 August 2012
Australia's new gun paddler Murray Stewart faces an immediate reality check in his Olympic debut on Monday when he slips into the shoes of Beijing Games gold medallist Ken Wallace.
Stewart makes his Olympic debut in the K1 1000m in the canoe sprint competition at Eton Dorney after lowering Wallace's colours during the domestic season this year.
The Manly kayaker will contest three different events at the flatwater regatta, where he'll be Australia's busiest paddler.
Stewart said his primary focus remained the K4 1000 with the crew that took the silver medal at last year's world titles, but he hasn't discounted K1 success.
The 26-year-old lifesaver still showed enough on the World Cup circuit in Europe that he'll be among the leading paddlers, especially after pushing Canadian world champion Adam Van Koeverden in Moscow in June.
He'll line up against European champion and two-time world champion Max Hoff, from Germany, and Norway's 2004 Olympic champion Erik Veras Larsen in his opening heat in a gauge of his medal chances.
"The K1 is such an open field," Stewart told AAP. "I know what I can do but I'm not putting too much pressure on myself."
Stewart will also compete in the K1 200 at the end of the week but his strength lies in the longer distance, highlighted by his selection race wins over Wallace.
While Wallace could not sustain the form which saw him win K1 500 gold and K1 1000 bronze in Beijing over the past Olympiad, he still gets his chance in the K2 1000 with partner David Smith.
Wallace and Smith will line up in the heats against Slovak world champions Peter Gelle and Erik Vlcekand defending gold medallists Andreas Ihle and Martin Hollstein from Germany.
Australia's women's K4 500 crew of Rachel Lovell, Lyndsie Fogarty, Hannah Davis and Jo Brigden-Jones also have a tough start against the Hungarian world champions.