Canadian kayaker Mark de Jonge, whose Olympic dream was in jeopardy just months ago after he dropped an 80-pound dumbbell on his finger, won both his races Friday to advance to the final of the Olympic K-1 200 metres.
The 28-year-old from Halifax led from start to finish in his opening heat and then pipped Spain’s Saul Craviotto by .002 of a second at the finish line to win the semifinal in 35.595 seconds.
Hugues Fournel of Lachine,Que., and Ryan Cochrane of Windsor, Ont., finished fourth in their K-2 200 metres to grab the last berth in Saturday’s final from their semi.
Emilie Fournel, Hugues’ older sister, missed out on a final, finishing seventh in her K-1 200 semi-final.
And Jason McCoombs finished fourth in his C-1 200 semi-final and failed to advance. The 19-year-old from Dartmouth, N.S., will go to the B final Saturday.
The London Games mark the debut of the 200-metre distance, which replaces 500-metre races, although the 200 has been contested at the world championships for some time.
Canada has already won four medals at the venue from Adam van Koeverden (silver in K-1, 1,000 metres), Mark Oldershaw (bronze C-1 1,000 metres) and the men’s and women’s rowing eights (both silver).
De Jonge led from start to finish in winning his heat in 35.396 seconds, giving him the honour of setting the first Olympic best in the new event. That mark lasted one race as former world champion Ed McKeever of Britain clocked 35.087.
He will face stiff competition Saturday, the final day of canoe-kayak action, from McKeever, Craviotto, former world champion Ronald Rauhe of Germany and current European champion Marko Novakovic of Serbia.
De Jonge’s Olympic dream seemed over in mid-April when he broke the middle finger of his left hand just three weeks ahead of the Canadian Olympic trials at Lake Lanier, Ga.
He was doing a dumbbell bench press on one side when he lost his balance. He tried to toss the weight away while he put his hand down to support himself but did not get it clear.
But in June, he won the last spot on the Olympic canoe-kayak team by defeating teammate Richard Dober Jr. in an unofficial world best time of 33.804.
The time does not count because it was not an international meet.
De Jonge had stepped away from the sport after failing to make the Beijing team, focusing instead on his engineering career. But when the 200 metres was added to the Olympic schedule, coach Fred Jobin convinced him to come back in 2010.
He won a bronze medal at the test event at Eton Dorney last September.
McCoombs was fourth in his opening heat (41.742).
There were 25 competitors in the four opening C-1 200 heats and all but one progressed to the semi-finals. Amazingly the one that missed out was European and world champion Valentin Demyanenko of Azerbaijan.
Three of the four heats featured just six competitors, with all six progressing. Demyanenko’s heat was the only one with seven entries and he was the lone odd man out, placing seventh.
His Olympics lasted a little over 44 seconds.
Hugues Fournel and Cochrane placed fourth in their heat (33.407) while Emilie Fournel was fifth in her opening heat (43.117).
The Fournels’ late father, Jean, paddled at the 1976 Games in Montreal while mother Guylaine raced in the Pan American Championships.
Hugues Fournel and Cochrane turned heads in 2010 when they upset Dober and Andrew Willows at the national team trials. It marked the first time in six years a Canadian crew had beaten Dober and Willows.
Emilie Fournel also competed at Beijing, finishing 10th in the K-4 500 metres.
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