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Aussies gallant in bid to defend K4 title

20 August 2016

SPRINT CANOE: Australia’s men’s K4 1000m crew valiantly attempted to retain the gold medal that they won in London four years ago, but went down fighting to finish fourth in their final on Saturday at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. 

The crew of Ken Wallace, Jacob Clear, Riley Fitzsimmons and Jordan Wood had won their semi-final the day before but were beaten on finals day by a German crew the led throughout. 

Slovakia and the Czech Republic held off the Australians for the silver and bronze respectively. 

Meanwhile, Stephen Bird rounded off his Olympic campaign in the K1 200m by coming eighth in the A-Final on day 15 of competition. 

The K4 crews faced testing conditions with a strong headwind. But it didn’t stop Germany exploding away at the start to take control of the race, with Australia not quite executing their start to be in sixth position. 

A late rally from Wallace, Fitzsimmons, Clear and Wood saw them make ground on the field to finish fourth in a time of 3:06.73 second. The Germans were commanding winners in 3:02.453. The Australians missed the podium by 1.533 seconds. 

Clear, who was the only member of the gold medal crew from London, admitted the crew had given it their all and were disappointed to not be on the podium. 

“We put it all out there on the line, I know I definitely had nothing left with about 50 to go, but it is a hard one to swallow, just missing the podium,” Clear said. 

“I believe we can look at the race and say we have all done each other proud and we can walk away with our heads held high.” 

Olympic debutants Wood and Fitzsimmons both felt that they had come away with the great learnings from their first Games and were hungry for more competition. 

“It’s a great experience to go out there and really just race,” Wood said. 

“It’s the pinnacle of our sport to be at the Olympic Games, we all came here to perform at our best and try and get on the podium.   

“We gave it our everything and fought hard but just missed out. 

Fitzsimmons said the fourth place finish had already sparked his plans to come back in the next Olympiad. 

“It’s ignited the passion to continue, being at the Games and with the likes of Ken and Jake mentoring us, it’s made it an even better first experience,” said Fitzsimmons. “Our passion is kayaking and we do this sport because we love it and we’re going to come back stronger.” 

Three-time Olympian Wallace shared that while it was hard to come fourth and not be on the podium, the ultimate honour to begin with was being named in the Australian Olympic Team. 

“It’s tough to get fourth, but if you can walk away knowing you’ve done your best then that’s all we can do,” Wallace said. “The rest of the Australian Olympic Team, everyone else who got fourth, or who got tenth, that were lucky enough and privileged enough to put on that green and gold, that’s a win already. 

“The Australian Olympic Team is one of the hardest teams to make. For us to just line up on the world stage is incredible, this is the pinnacle, the Olympics. You can’t go past the Olympic Games final, fighting for a medal, and we got fourth. We just missed out, it’s tough but all of us gave everything we had out there.” 

Earlier in the morning, two-time Olympian Bird, was up against some of the best K1 kayakers in the world including World Champion Mark de Jonge from Canada and an in form Liam Heath from Great Britain. 

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be the Australian’s day on the dais, with Heath taking out the win, followed by Maxime Beaumont from France, while Spain’s Saul Craviotto and Germany’s Ronald Rauhe shared the bronze. 

“I found a great rhythm at the start and dug away at it for the first 15 metres,” Bird admitted. “I did feel that I didn’t transition into that mid-race pace as well as I could of, but all my strokes were solid and that’s what I could give this morning. 

“I’m going to take a year off after this and reassess ahead of Tokyo depending on what happens in regards to boats coming in or going out in the next cycle.” 

In the B-Final of the men’s C2 1000m, Martin Marinov and Ferenc Szekszardi finished in second place, to be ranked 10th overall. A fantastic effort from a a crew that had only been training and competing together for a few months.

Lucy Benjamin

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