Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott claimed Britain’s first ever canoe slalom Olympic gold medal, with David Florence and Richard Hounslow taking silver, in an outstanding day of competition for Team GB.
Baillie and Stott were the first pair out in the final, and laid down an imposing penalty-free run, which left the remainder of the field struggling to match.
With just the legendary Slovakian brothers, Pavol and Peter Hochschorner, who have never lost an Olympic C2 final (having won gold at the last three Games); and the Florence/Hounslow pair left to go, the Brits were guaranteed a medal, but were delighted to hold on to become Olympic champions, with Florence and Hounslow taking the silver.
On the bank afterwards, Stott paid tribute to the support they have received in their journey – particularly as he has battled back from a serious injury a year ago when he dislocated his shoulder on the Lee Valley course.
Some rapid intervention from English Institute of Sport (EIS) support staff was critical – firstly through EIS Sport Physician Kate Strachen, and Senior Physio Julie Pearce in the immediate aftermath, and then in the implementation of a complete rehabilitation programme (delivered in double quick time), including a two week stay at the British Olympic Medical Institute - Intensive Rehabilitation Unit, which operates in partnership with the EIS at Bisham Abbey. As today’s results showed, Etienne is back to his brilliant best.
Further to the support offered by EIS, UK Sport has worked closely with GB Canoeing to develop and support the coaching teams behind both boats. Nick Smith and Mark Delaney are two of Britain’s brightest canoe slalom coaches – both of whom have benefitted from UK Sport programmes. Smith, who has been coaching with the GB team since 2009, is a graduate of the Elite Coaching Apprenticeship Programme (ECAP), UK Sport’s flagship two-year programme which sees coaches working in a traditional ‘apprenticeship’ model, combining ‘on the job’ training with dedicated workshops.
The two canoe slalom medals were just two of a remarkable six medals won by Team GB in a glittering day. After the strong showing of the men’s lightweight four at Dorney Lake in the morning (winning silver), the afternoon turned into a procession for Team GB, with the Lee Valley success being quickly followed by an outstanding display of shooting from Peter Wilson in the Double Trap – winning gold; and then a remarkable surprise silver medal from judoka Gemma Gibbons, who beat three of the world’s top 10 on her way.
It was only fitting that the day’s medal haul should be rounded off in the velodrome, with a truly magnificent world record-breaking effort from Sir Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny and Philip Hindes in the Team Sprint.
In a dream final with the much-fancied French, led by Gregory Bauge, it was the British team which dominated, with Hindes setting a blistering pace, setting up Kenny and then Hoy to cross the line, and in so doing, equal Sir Steve Redgrave’s record of five Olympic Gold Medals.
The GB team delivered a masterful performance, despite being a relatively new grouping, and despite the generation gap between Hoy (36 years old) and Hindes (19). Hindes was just five years old when Chris Hoy first started receiving National Lottery funding as part of the World Class Programme, back in 1997. Tonight, that blend of experience and youthful power combined perfectly to deliver a famous Olympic title.