GB slalom canoeists fail to reach podium at test event

By Nick HopeBBC Sport at Lee Valley

Campbell Walsh, the 2004 Olympic silver medallist, says he was surprised by the performances of foreign athletes racing for the first time at Lee Valleyexternal-link.

GB slalom canoeists have been able to practise on the course since it opened last year, but they failed to win medals at the 2012 Olympic test eventexternal-link.

"I've been impressed with the foreign paddlers, because this is a difficult course," Walsh told BBC Sport.

"Achieving podiums off just one week of training really shows their skill."

He added: "I'm not saying the British paddlers aren't as skillful, it's just that we would have actually expected to do a little better."

European championship bronze medallist Lizzie Neaveexternal-link was fourth in the women's K1 event, with Beijing Olympic silver medallist David Florenceexternal-link sixth in the men's C1.

The race was won by two-time Olympic champion Michal Martikanexternal-link in a time of one minute 30.84 seconds - a result which saw him take Slovakia's sole position in the C1 class for the London Gamesexternal-link.

"The course is perfect, very beautiful clean water and it's very technical. I like it very much and it takes a lot of concentration, but it was not as difficult as it could have been," Martikan told BBC Sport.

Richard Hounslowexternal-link suffered a two-second time penalty and a total of one minute 38.54 seconds landed him fifth place in the men's K1, but Walsh failed to progress beyond the semi-finals.

"It's been a busy weekend," said Hounslow, who also competes in the C2 event.

"I was unfortunate to hit a gate right at the end and that cost me a medal, but I'm working towards the Olympics and generally I feel that things are going well.

"I'm making steady improvement, so hopefully with another year's training I'll be back up on top."

Alongside David Florence,external-link with whom he claimed the 2010 C2 World Championship bronze medal last year, Hounslow thought they had achieved a bronze medal after their run put them into third position.

However, the German team successfully appealed against a 50-second time penalty, resulting in GB's demotionexternal-link.

Despite his team failing to win a medal, GB canoeing performance director John Andersonexternal-link insists he remains "quietly confident" after watching this week's finals.

"Obviously we want to be on the podium, but we have one or two in each class that that are recording the quickest times for the course, they just suffered from one of two time penalties," he told BBC Sport.

"Some nations have used this event for their Olympic selection, so they've come rested and have taken it really seriously, whereas we have just come back from two weeks of solid training.

"It's only one athlete per nation at an Olympics, so overall I'm pretty confident about our chances next year."

The first phase of qualification for the 2012 Great Britain squad begins at the World Championshipsexternal-link in Bratislava, Slovakia, on 7-11 September.

"If any of our athletes get a medal out there, then you could say they have one hand on a qualification spot," concluded Anderson.

"However, we'll have a further three races over three days in the UK in April, which will be a closed event. The results from that and the World Championships will help determine who makes the team."

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