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OLYMPICS: His best 110 strokes yet
PUT simply, Ed McKeever experienced one of the greatest days of his life on Saturday.
The Bradford on Avon kayak king made years of experience bear fruit and refused to sink under the weight of expectation as he left the competition in his wake while ruthlessly storming to an Olympic gold medal in the K1 200m final at London 2012.
The 28-year-old, who has been dubbed ‘the Usain Bolt of canoe sprint’, was imperious as he led the pack and powered over the line, just as he had done in the heats and semi-finals a day previous.
McKeever, whose love affair with the water began at Bradford on Avon Canoe Club, lifted one fist in the air before slamming it into the surface of Dorney Lake, sending the home crowd into raptures, as he crossed the line to become a national hero.
The softly-spoken Team GB star admits that the limelight that comes with becoming an Olympic champion is something that he wasn’t quite prepared for.
“It’s all quite difficult to describe. I don’t think that it’s started to sink in yet,” said McKeever, who needed 110 strokes to join Team GB’s elite group of gold medal heroes, told the Wiltshire Times.
“Going to the Olympics, on the whole, was a pretty inspiring experience but to be able to go there and win a medal is fantastic, especially in such a growing sport.
“I don’t remember much of the race itself – I’ve watched it a few times on television since but at the time I was just concentrating on trying to get a great start and luckily, I managed to do that.
“I wasn’t nervous (beforehand), just excited like a kid at Christmas who wants to get up and open his presents, and presents don’t come much better than the gold medal.
“A lot of people have told me that the race was a great spectacle and that’s really nice to hear.
“It is hard to get used to everyone being interested in you but I did try to prepare for it because I thought I’d have a chance of doing well.”
Canoe sprint’s golden boy added: “Everything after the race has all been a bit bizarre – it’s the little things like being in the athletes’ village and having other athletes that have won gold medals coming up to talk to you.
“I had Matthew Pinsent come to congratulate me at the evening party after I won and it’s great to meet people like that.
“(Prime Minister) David Cameron was also at the race and it’s nice to see someone as important as that supporting our sport.
“I definitely think it was one of the best days of my life and it’ll leave a lasting impression.”