Ed McKeever’s dreams of defending Olympic title in Rio are over

Ed McKeever’s dreams of defending his Olympic canoe sprint title at this summer’s Rio Games ended today in Duisburg, Germany.
 
McKeever, Olympic Champion in the men’s K1 200m event, needed a top three place in today’s final European Continental Olympic Qualifying event in order to keep his hopes alive of defending his title in Rio.
 
But he finished fifth, 0.97 seconds down on race winner Saúl Craviotto from Spain.
 
“I’m obviously disappointed,” said McKeever afterwards.  “The two most important races of this last four years – the Worlds last year and today - were probably my worst. But I guess that’s life.
 
“I can’t fault my preparations.  Training has been good and I had a solid winter under my belt.
 
“I can’t really explain why and I’m not going to dwell on it too much but it just didn’t happen.
 
“The conditions today were ok, a slight cross wind but nothing I could fault.  I just wasn’t fast enough on the day.
 
“The end goal was the Rio Olympics which is off the table now so I will go away and reflect and see where I go from here.”
 
However, the possibility is still open for Liam Heath to compete in the men’s K1 200m event at Rio this summer.  Heath, the 2012 London Games bronze medallist with Jon Schofield in men’s K2 200 has qualified for Rio in the K2 200m with Schofield, which allows him to compete in other events.  And this summer’s K1 200m Rio Games competition has, unlike London, the advantage of falling on a day after the K2 200.
 
Britain’s Angela Hannah and Lani Belcher needed an outright win in the women’s K2 500m to confirm their Rio spot but missed out by taking third place, coming in just over a second behind winners Karin Johansson and Sofia Paldanius of Sweden.
 
“It is obviously hard to take, coming away with a third when we were fighting for the win,” said a bitterly disappointed Belcher, who accepts this is the end of her own Rio campaign.
 
“We raced a lot better than yesterday so at least we know we were able to go out there today and fight for it.
 
“We never thought for one minute that we couldn’t win which is what makes it harder.
It has been a long and testing journey but I wouldn’t have chosen to do it with anyone else but Angela.”
 
Hannah later finished out of the running for the women’s K1 200 spot after finishing ninth.
 
But there was better news for Great Britain’s Paracanoe team who won two gold, two silver and two bronze medals on the final day of the Paracanoe World Championships at the same venue.
 
By finishing third and fourth respectively in their finals, Nick Beighton (KL2M 200) and Ian Marsden (KL1M 200) secured Britain’s final two quota slots for the Rio Paralympic Games.
 
Said John Anderson, British Canoeing’s Performance Director:  “On the Olympic second round qualifying, my first reaction would be disappointment for the athletes.
 
“We were in six finals today and I felt that across those finals we were absolutely capable of at least two of those boats featuring.
 
“We came close, but close isn’t close enough. So the six athlete places that we  qualified at last year’s world championships will be the sprint Olympics team for Rio.
 
“I’m over the moon that we qualified the additional two Paralympics places.  Only Australia and us will be going to the Paralympics in six events.”

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