21 Aug 2016
Gold for Heath as Diamond, Holland and Onuora win bronze on penultimate day of Rio 2016
Loughborough University graduate Liam Heath completed his set of Olympic medals as he took gold with a stunning victory in the K1 200m canoe sprint at the Lagoa Stadium.
Tearing out of the traps Heath was second at the halfway point but produced a carbon copy of yesterday’s heats and semi-final performances to power through in the second half of the race and win gold in 35.197 seconds.
Having teamed up with fellow Loughborough alumnus Jon Schofield to win K2 200m bronze in London, the duo upgraded their medal to silver two days ago. Having won gold in the individual event, the 32-year old paddler becomes the most decorated British Olympic canoeist of all time with three medals.
“I’ve got the set now after bronze in London and silver and gold here. It’s incredible. I'm over the moon.
“The slight headwind made the race a bit longer so I had to keep that in mind and try to keep the pace at the end of the race. I had an inkling I had won but I was just so focused on my lane and those work blocks which is your finish point, that I’d blanked everything out.
“I crossed the line, looked around and had an inkling I was in front but then when you finally see your name up on the board it starts to sink in a bit.
“It’s an absolutely incredible feeling. Essentially it’s what I’ve worked for all my life. I just started coming back into the sport in 2009 after leaving it without any thought of competing again. To think that if I hadn’t come back in, I’d be missing out on this is quite scary to be honest.
“I came out of university twiddling my thumbs a little bit, not knowing where I wanted to go. And then 200m was announced as an Olympic discipline and I’ve always been pretty nifty over 200m.
“I committed full time without funding initially, jumped straight in a boat with Jonny [Schofield] and at our first World Cup, we hit gold and that was an amazing achievement.”
“I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who’s been supporting me – my friends, family and especially Jonny. He finished a couple of days ago but he’s been out doing my drills for me before the sessions, checking my boat out and getting me on the water.”
Alumna Vicky Holland became the first ever British woman ever to claim an Olympic triathlon medal after winning a sprint finish win teammate Non Stanford to secure Rio 2016 bronze.
Holland and Stanford were in medal contention throughout, cycling among the lead pack after the swim, before running side by side as Gwen Jorgensen and Nicola Spirig contested the gold further up the road.
It was Holland who had more at the death though, sprinting away to win Team GB’s 62nd medal of the Rio 2016 Olympics on the penultimate day.
“I have such mixed emotions. I was absolutely delighted when I crossed the line and I still am. To come and win a medal for Team GB and for myself is absolutely what I came here for.
“But to have to beat out your best friend, your training partner, your housemate is hard. And I guess about 5km into the run, I knew that it was going to come down to me or Non for a medal.
“We’ve always said it’s fair game when it comes to the run. We knew we wanted a medal and we didn’t want to let Barbara Riveros back in from behind. So at that point we just had to keep the pressure on and keep running for the bronze.
“I wanted both of us to do it. Non is a huge part of what I do. Half of this medal is hers. She is a huge part of what I do and I have to give so much credit to her. I know that she’s so strong and she’ll be back in Tokyo in four years’ time and I wouldn’t bet against her. The first thing I did when I regrouped myself was try to find her and I told her I’m so sorry.
“But of course she was completely gracious as she always is. She’s a total star and I know she is delighted for me and I understand that she’ll be gutted. Fourth is a horrible place to finish, especially at the Olympic Games.”
In the final evening of athletics inside the Olympic stadium, Loughborough University graduate Emily Diamond and Loughborough based Anyika Onuora won a brilliant bronze in the women’s 4x400m final.
Anyika Onuora (Rana Reider) got out hard on the second leg to take up third at the break, but paid the price in the home straight as she tied up slightly to handover in fifth, but still right in the mix.
A phenomenal third leg by Emily Diamond pulled the team back up to third though, giving Christine Ohuruogu a small cushion as she took off on the anchor leg.
Using all of her experience, the former Olympic champion saved something for the final 100m, to pull away from her rivals and cross the line in third in 3.25.88, much to the delight of her teammates.
Post-race Diamond said:
“It’s been the most amazing experience. We had the most amazing holding camp in Belo and we came out here knowing the bronze medal would be up for grabs. I’m so proud of these girls – we actually did it!”
Lynsey Sharp was the other Loughborough based athlete in action on the final evening of track and field action at Rio 2016, and she produced a 1.57.69 personal best to finish sixth in an incredibly fast women’s 800m final. Despite only going through the bell in 57 seconds, the pace was electric over the final 400m with no one able to stop Caster Semenya easing away to win gold.
“It was a great race to be part of. I knew it was going to be very competitive and to run my fastest ever time in an Olympic final, I have to be happy with that, but I’m a little bit frustrated because I know that I can go faster than that. It wasn’t necessarily about times but being competitive and I feel like I did myself justice today.