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Canoeist Hannah Craig is a top ten hit

By Julian Taylor

Canoeist Hannah Craig looked back with a tinge of regret at her first Olympics experience, after finishing 10th in the final of the women’s slalom.

Craig, the first Irishwoman to make an Olympic final, had an edgy start which ultimately cost her a better finish at the Lee Valley Leisure Centre.

The 29-year-old from Armoy in Co Antrim, and ranked 49th in the world before the Games, was unfortunately over 10 seconds slower in her second run after incurring six seconds in penalties clipping gates five, nine and 16 on the way.

The gold was won by Emilie Fer of France, who sailed home in 105.90 seconds, with Craig’s time of 127.36 seconds leaving her well adrift of the winner.

It was a brave display from Craig who is coached by her partner, Dutchman Han Bijnen, and had qualified for London 2012 through the European Championships.

“Making the final was a big, big achievement,” said Craig.

“I’m not fully satisfied with how I paddled in the final. There was a protest issue (from the semi) which went on for quite some time.

“I didn’t know it was 30 minutes before the final that I was starting. I kind of lacked a little bit in my preparation going into the final just time wise.

“I would have liked a better final but hey I am happy to have made it.

“I have had different friends and family come out and it has been great. I think being from Ireland you get that extra bit of support from the British crowd.

“I love my sport. There are loads of different factors that come in to making a decision. Financially it is always a struggle. If I can financially do it and get a system into place, I’d love to keep on going.

“Sport NI have been very good to me. The Irish Sports Council, not so much. I hope it does change now because it is about now. “

Fer, the first French woman to become Olympic champion in canoe slalom, smiled: “I would like to have been a little mouse amongst the French supporters to hear everything they were saying.”

Meanwhile, Team UK gold medallists Etienne Stott and Tim Baillie were ecstatic to claim gold in the Men’s canoe slalom doubles event. The pair edged out team-mates David Florence and Richard Hounslow who won silver.

Final favourites from Slovakia, twin brothers Peter and Pavol Hochschorner, could only manage bronze, a disappointing outcome for a country traditionally steeped in the sport. Stott paid tribute to the silver medallists: “It’s worthy these guys joined us on the podium. It was because of them that we were able to put the final piece of the jigsaw together.

“Without the metal strength we have developed we couldn’t have performed today.

And Baillie was effusive in his praise for the Hochschorners, who have led the way in canoe slalom showdowns, winning three successive gold medals in 2000, 2004, and 2008.

“We won today but what the Hochschorners have done is just incredible,” he said. “They are still the greatest ever C2 crew.”

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