O'Hara finding form at the right time in Argentina

Claire O’Hara’s quest to win back her freestyle kayak world title received a boost on Friday when she qualified first for the final, while main rival and defending world champion, USA’s Emily Jackson, missed the medal decider.

Great Britain’s O’Hara, who won her ninth world title earlier this week in San Juan, Argentina, when she won gold in the women’s squirt competition, posted 586.67 to nose out France’s Marlene Devillez on 570 points, with Poland’s Zofia Tula third with 568.33.

O’Hara was surprised to finish on top.

“We didn’t see the scores, and I wasn’t sure if one of my big tricks had scored or not, so we thought I might have been on the bubble and missed the cut,” O’Hara said.

“To be honest, it’s just important to make it into the final at this stage. I haven’t really pulled together at all this week.

“On a couple of rides I’ve pulled the big moves, but I haven’t had a ride yet that I’m proud of.”

The final will see two athletes from Great Britain, and competitors from France, Poland and Japan in what should be one of the closest contests of the weekend.

“It’s going to be an amazing final to be part of, an amazing final to watch, and to be leading it, just to be in it, I’m so happy right now,” O’Hara said.

“My routine is awesome, but I haven’t shown it yet. I’ve got a routine that I’ve been trying to do, but it hasn’t worked yet.

“My routine will get me onto that podium, if I nail it. But it’s the same with the other girls and their routines, any one of those four could podium if they get it.

“But I do have some tricks up my sleeve.”

O’Hara won the freestyle world title in 2011 and again in 2013, but lost the crown to USA’s Emily Jackson in 2015.

But in one of the biggest shocks of the 2017 World Championships, Jackson struggled in her semi-final and missed the cut.

O’Hara said the absence of the reigning world champion relieves some pressure for the final.

“It does, but it doesn’t at the same time because the depth of the field within the sport at the moment,” she said.

“Emily obviously had a lot of pressure on her shoulders coming into this event, she really wanted to be on that podium again at the top.

“She’s very competitive, and she’s also a phenomenal athlete. The way she’s been training, she could have won this. It’s a real shame not to have her there, but it also gives an opportunity to another person.”

The women’s K1 final will be held under lights on Saturday night.

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Bridgitte Hartley (RSA)
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