The women’s Kayaking at Eton Dorney is a strange affair for the casual observer. Four heats consisting of seven teams sees only the bottom placed team in each heat drop out and the other six making their way to semi-finals. Even then the competition becomes more about jostling for much coveted position as the second, third and fourth heats consisted of only the six that would automatically make their way through after the heats had finished.
There was British interest in the fourth heat in the shape of Rachel Cawthorn from the Wey Kayak Club in Guildford. Rachel has good form in the 500 metres single kayaking event and was in 2010 ranked number one in the world cup of that year although the last year has seen her personal form dip slightly due to injury.
Not far from the lake is the iconic building where they filmed the classic Hammer House of Horrors, thankfully there would be no scares for the 24 year old British hopeful in the heats.
The only woman to drop out of the 25 women racing in the heats was the unlucky Iranian, Arezou Hakimmogaddam, who put in a sterling effort in her heat, coming in only six seconds behind the Finnish Kayaker Anne Rikala.
Rachel Cawthorn looked comfortable in her heat and with no real pressure on her not to qualify for the semi-finals; the crowd gave her a warm and vital reception. The start of her race saw Rachel and Alana Nicholls of Australia push each other all the way to the finishing line. Both women gave an impressive display of skill and in the end Rachel Cawthorn edged it and was in buoyant mood as she looked to have come to the Games at just the right time of her latest form.
The semi-finals would see the two fastest from each semi-final progress to the final as well as the two fastest third place winners. The tightness in the shoulders began to show at the half way stage and especially in the young Canadian women who began to falter. The first race saw South Africa’s Bridgitte Hartley and the Ukraine’s Inna Osypenko-Radomska go through just ahead of Finland’s Anna Rikala. Rikala posted an impressive time despite coming third and would have had hopes of qualifying as the best runner up.
Joining Hartley and Osypenko-Radomska will be Danuta Kozak and Henrietta Hanse, the Italian veteran Josefa Idem who is in her astonishing eighth Olympic appearance and for joy for British Kayaking fans as Rachel Cawthorn powered her way into Thursday’s final despite being behind at the half way stage.
The two fastest third place winners making up the available two final places are Sofia Paldanius and Anna Rikala.
Thursday’s final offers the chance for yet another medal from these incredible games and Rachel Cawthorn can be assured a huge welcome and even louder cheer at the end of the race no matter how she does in the final.
Ian D. Hall