Baillie, Stott win Olympic men's canoe slalom
WALTHAM CROSS, England (AP) - The British crowd at the Lee Valley White Water Centre rose from their seats when they realized at least one of their canoes would win an Olympic medal.
They cheered even louder when it became apparent the dominant Hochschorner twins of Slovakia would not win yet again.
They went bonkers when it dawned on them that Britain would.
Silver, too? Simply brilliant.
Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott of Britain won gold in the men's canoe double slalom Thursday at the London Olympics. David Florence and Richard Hounslow gave the host country a sweep of the top two spots by finishing second, just 0.36 second behind.
"It's weird. It doesn't seem real. It's a complete dream,'' Stott said. "We did feel the pressure being in the final, but we just focused on our process and got on with it.''
Baillie and Stott were justified in feeling the heat heading into the finals. It was nearly a foregone conclusion that Slovakia's Pavol and Peter Hochschorner would blow away the field, as they almost always do.
The Hochschorners have won 22 major international gold medals - including three in a row at the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Olympics - but they had to settle for bronze here.
It was a stunning defeat for the Hochschorners, who have also won the last three world championships and are ranked No. 1 in the world.
The twins finished 1.87 seconds behind Baillie and Stott, in part because of a two-second penalty for hitting a slalom gate. The British canoes were only two out of the six that competed in the final to cross without a penalty.
"We had a few really big mistakes. It was not a run for a gold medal,'' Pavol Hochschorner said.
The Hochschorners were the fifth of six canoes to run. All it took was some quick math once their score was displayed for the crowd to figure out that the gold was certain for a British canoe.
Thus Florence and Hounslow's run became a 106-second celebration for British fans - and the pair nearly caught the winning boat before falling inches short.
"Sitting on the start line, we knew Britain had a gold medal already,'' Hounslow said. "We are a team. We attacked it hard.''
The competitors in the women's kayak slalom had the unfortunate task of following such an exciting men's race roughly 20 minutes later, with Emilie Fer of France emerging as a surprising gold medal winner.
Fer, seventh at the 2008 Beijing Games, finished in 105.90 seconds. Australia's Jessica Fox, daughter of five-time world champion Richard Fox of Britain and 1996 bronze medalist Myriam Fox Jerusalmi, took the silver.
Spain's Maialen Chourraut won bronze, and Slovakian Jana Dukatova, ranked first in the world, was sixth.
Fer said she had to tell her coach to stop telling her everybody else's time while she was waiting to go.
Fer knew exactly what was needed to win.
"I took some risks because I had nothing to lose, and I knew I needed to go fast,'' Fer said.
Some thought the best pick of the day for Britain was Lizzie Neave, but she failed to qualify for the finals.
Baillie, Stott, Florence and Hounslow more than made up for Neave's poor run by denying the Hochschorners a fourth gold medal and turning the medal ceremony into a decidedly British affair.
"It couldn't have gone more perfectly for our sport to get two of us, two crews on the podium,'' Stott said. "It was amazing.''