Lisa Carrington and Caitlin Regal have continued their stellar work in Tokyo, progressing to the semi finals of the K1 500m.
After the emotional high of Tuesday, where Carrington added another golden layer to her legacy and Regal became Kayaking’s latest Olympic champion, the pair had to come back down to earth quickly on Wednesday, reverting to the solo event. They both managed automatic qualification for Thursday’s semi-finals, avoiding the potentially draining prospect of taking the longer route via the quarter finals.
The semi finals are set to go from 9:58am local time on Thursday (12:58 NZT), with the A final scheduled for 3:29pm (NZT). The B final will be raced at 3:22pm (NZT).
Topping off another exciting day, the men’s K2 1000m combination of Max Brown and Kurtis Imrie took to the water for the first time, qualifying for the semi-finals after a mature, powerful performance in their quarter final. The semi-finals start from 1:26pm (NZT) on Thursday.
Regal was first in action on Wednesday at the Sea Forest Waterway, in heat three of the K1 500m.
Conditions were again tricky – shown when a top Belarussian paddler completely mangled her start in an earlier heat – but Regal was in a good spot in lane one.
The 29-year-old had to regather herself, after a false start by Frenchwoman Manon Hostens, but began well, after a powerful start.
She clocked 52.37 for the first 250m, just ahead of Australian Alyce Wood, with experienced Swede Linnea Stensils half a second further back.
Regal was comfortable from there, knowing that a top three finish was enough, though Slovakian Janic Ponomarenko made it tight at the finish with a late burst.
Regal clocked 1:50.297 in third, behind Stensils (1:48.144) and Wood (1:48.572).
Regal, who set a world best time for the distance in 2018, wasn’t entirely satisfied, illustrating the high standards that have been set within the high performance program at Canoe Racing New Zealand.
“It just wasn’t good enough,” Regal told Sky Television. “We had a big day yesterday but it was messy [today] and I’m going to have to do better for the semi-final and I’m capable of better than that. We’ve seen the men’s [rowing] eight turn it round and I can do the same.”
Regal admitted the exertions of the K2 500m had taken a toll but wasn’t making any excuses.
“There is the challenge of getting your head back in the game,” Regal told Sky. “It takes a lot more energy than you think. But back to base, back to do some work and get my head in the right place to be able to put down a better performance on [Thursday].”
Carrington featured in the sixth and final heat.
If there was any residual fatigue from Tuesday’s heroics it wasn’t evident, as the 2019 world champion produced an imperious performance.
She stamped her mark early – building a lead with her familiar acceleration pattern – and breezed through the halfway point at 51.48, almost a second ahead of her nearest rival.
The 32-year-old, who claimed K1 500m bronze in Rio, found a strong rhythm in the second half, before tapering down slightly before the finish.
Despite that, Carrington stopped the clock at 1:48.463, the third quickest time of the day.
“It was really important for me to get out there and run through the race,” Carrington told Sky Television. “It’s a bit different to the 200m and to being in a K2 500m.”
Carrington will be one of the favourites on Thursday but wasn’t getting ahead of things.
“Tomorrow’s a new day,” she added. “For me, it’s taking one race as it comes. These girls are all here to win so I have to step up with that.”
Meanwhile, Brown (26) and Imrie (27) made their Olympic bow on Wednesday in the K2 1000m – and did so in an impressive fashion.
The emerging combination, who have earmarked the 2024 Games as a long-term goal, progressed to Thursday’s semi-final after achieving second place in their quarter final.
That bare statistic doesn’t do justice to their performance, as they dominated for much of the race, pushing the highly experienced Belarussian crew to the limit.
They set the pace through the first 250m then lit it up, clocking 1:32.95 at the halfway point.
The Kiwis were comfortable from there – with the top three progressing – but found a late burst to almost surprise Belarus on the line, finishing second by 0.094 in 3:10.220.
As Ben Fouhy noted in commentary, the effort seemed to take more out of the Europeans, who were in obvious pain after the race.
Earlier Brown and Imrie had finished fourth in their heat, which was always going to be a challenging affair, with the crack German and Australian crews.
But the Kiwis, who finished 15th at the 2019 world championships in Hungary, acquitted themselves well.
They were third after the first quarter and maintained that position until the halfway point.
Brown and Imrie crossed in fourth (3:17.210), ahead of Belarus and Canada, as they conserved energy in the second half of the race, sticking to the race plan of coach Tim Brabants.