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CANOE - David Florence gave himself an early birthday present

David Florence gave himself an early birthday present by posting a cracking time in the first round of the C1 slalom Rio, signalling once again that he is a genuine Olympic medal contender.

Florence turns 34 on Monday, and on Tuesday he’ll set out to earn himself the one thing no-one else can give him – his first ever gold medal.

Florence won silver in the C1 in Beijing in 2008, and for those who thought his best might be behind him, his first run in the C1 heats would have been a rude awakening for the doubters.

And Florence doesn’t understand why anyone would think his glory days are gone.

“It’s going as well as it ever has, to be honest,” he said.

“This Olympic cycle has been the biggest success of my career so far.I went into the London Olympic Games never having won a World Championships, and I’ve won three over the last few years.

So things are going really well and I’m really enjoying it. And if you are angling to ask me if I’m about to retire, no I’m not.”

For the record, that question never crossed my mind.

Florence finished the first C1 run a clear leader, and decided to sit out the second heat. Germany’s Sideris Tasiadis and Frenchman Denis GargaudChanut both finished ahead of him after the second run, but Florence was just happy to have blown out the cobwebs.

“It was really good to get on the water, we’ve been here so long,” he said.

“Sometimes you actually almost lose sight that there’s an Olympic Games coming around. We’ve been in the Olympic Village two weeks so it’s great to get going.

“When we arrived here on the bus it was really windy, everyone could see. But the first thing I thought is it’s better it is qualifying day than finals day.”

And how does the excitement of a third Olympics compare to his first two?

“I think I’ve enjoyed every Olympic Games I’ve been to massively,” he said.

“I mean I take my sport very seriously, but I do it because I love it, and I love the opportunity to be at a third Olympic Games.”

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