Liam Heath won Team GB’s 25th gold of Rio 2016 and in the process became Team GB’s most successful Olympic canoeist in a spectacular climax to the canoe sprint regatta at the Lagoa Stadium.
The 32 year old Brit, who won silver with Jon Schofield in the men’s K2 200m final earlier this week, produced an incredible turn of speed to beat Frenchman Maxime Beaumont in the K1 200m final.
Adding to his bronze, won with Schofield in the London 2012 Games, Heath now has a medal of every colour, making him Great Britain’s most successful Olympic canoeing athlete.
It feels absolutely incredible. It’s all the efforts of so many people behind me in my team, UK sport and lottery funding, my coach, my K2 partner, my loving family, my wife, my friends at home.
– Liam Heath
“All their efforts are combined into one moment when you cross the line and it’s pretty intense,” said Heath.
Whilst Heath had not been the fastest off the line in yesterday’s heats or semi finals, he managed to power through to win both races.
Today’s race followed a similar pattern with the Brit accelerating in the second half to finish in 35.197 seconds, just 0.165 seconds ahead of Beaumont. So close are the margins in this discipline that at first Heath had not realized he had won.
“I had an inkling I had it but I was so focussed on the white blocks which are the finish point that you blank everything out,” he said.
“So you cross the line you look around, you have an inkling you’re in front and then when they’ve looked at the photo finish and put your name up on the board that’s when you know and it starts to sink in a bit.”
Today there had been a light headwind which made for a slower time than yesterday but Heath had carefully planned how to approach the final: “You can’t control the conditions, it’s just something you have to deal with.
“It was quieter down the end than at the top so that’s kind of nice but it’s going to make the race a bit longer.
“So you have to keep that in your mind and just try and keep up the pace towards the end of the race.”
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