Friday 19 January 2018

Rheinisch relieved toplease 'home' support after securing progress

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

KILDARE paddler Eoin Rheinisch believes the so-called 'home Olympics' will bring pressures of their own for some Irish athletes.

It was something that even he, a veteran of three Games now, experienced before comfortably qualifying for Wednesday's K1 semi-finals yesterday.

"I think it's in the back of everyone's mind here, that so many people have paid for tickets and everything to come over and watch you and the tickets are so expensive," he said.

"I went out in the first round in Athens and I was devastated for all the people who travelled over.

"Obviously I was devastated for myself, but you can't help but think about the people who travelled over to support you. They don't think like that, but it's hard for me not to.

"It wasn't at the forefront of my mind today. But, thinking about it now, it's a relief that everyone gets a nice day out on Wednesday at least."

The 32-year-old Celbridge canoeist came agonisingly close to a medal when he finished fourth on a dramatic afternoon in Beijing.

But there was absolutely no drama at the Lee Valley White Water Centre yesterday when the Salmon Leap CC veteran guaranteed his qualification with a brilliant first run.

The best of two runs decided which of the 22 men would take the top 15 semi-final places and Rheinisch's opening run of 89.87 seconds was sixth fastest of the field.

His second was also clean, with no penalities. It was only marginally slower (90.72) and 11th fastest, and while a lot of his competition improved radically on their second run, his 89.97 got him through as 12th fastest.

The Irish slalom team have been training regularly in the last few months on the British Olympic venue, which is located 30 kilometres north of the Olympic Park.

They have based themselves locally for the duration of their competition to avoid the travelling involved from the athletes' village.

Like all Olympic white water courses, Lee Valley is extremely testing, with Rheinisch judging "it is the sort of course that punishes you if you're over-doing it."

But the laid-back Irishman was in particularly chilled form at qualifying, showing the benefits of all the experience he has picked up since failing to make it out of the first round in Athens.

"It was a little less stressful than the last couple (of Olympics)," he said.

"Barring quite unusual circumstances, the first run would have been enough to qualify so it was a bit more of a free approach on the second and I probably tried a little bit too hard to force the pace."

The ease of Rheinisch's qualification should also give a boost to Hannah Craig (27), the Antrim paddler who makes her Olympic debut in the women's KI today.

Craig's family moved to France when she was nine and she represented the French at underage level, but she returned home seven years ago, is now based in Belfast and was 13th in the 2010 World Championships.

She had to set up her own online T-shirt company called 'I Am An Eskimo' to fund her sporting career before qualifying for government funding.

Irish Independent

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