Olympics Brit Watch: Florence is not a machine

David Florence is the world's number one slalom canoeist

Canoe slalom can be a lottery, but Tobias Gourlay is ready to take the plunge

"Martikan has medalled in 10/11 world championships and four straight Olympics"

Back Michal Martikan @ 1.758/11 to be Men's Canoe Slalom - Top 3


US gymnasts fell off a pommel horse and a vault last night, and brought this column tumbling back down to earth with them. We had counted on our Stateside cousins to nick a medal ahead of the Brits, but the hosts turned out to be lucky as well as plucky, keeping the bronze for themselves.

Heartiest congrats to them, and perhaps more of the same for their female counterparts. Tuesday brings a chance for GB's female gymnasts to match - surpass, even - Louis Smith and friends. Beth Tweddle's coruscating effort on the uneven bars saw her top qualifying for that event. Twenty-seven is about 83 in gymnast years, but the three-time world champ has still got it and, overall, the team went through to the final in fifth place. Can they haul ass onto the podium? Tweddle is peddling the idea of a US gold in the team event and that's exactly the sort of self-effacement that says, 'No we can't.'

David Florence, a silver medallist in Beijing, has been practising the canoe slalom course at the Lee Valley White Water Centre for a year and a half, but hit two gates on his first qualifying run and ended up in 13th. With only the top 12 going forward to the semi-final, he dragged himself - and his carbon fibre boat - up to fifth after the second run. All canoe slalom courses are different and Florence's unmatched experience of this one - and his status as newly appointed world number one - make him a favourite for gold.

But listen to this. It's Florence blogging about his event, after following up a World Cup win in Cardiff with early elimination in France, then silver in a third event in Spain. "It's perhaps hard for someone outside of the sport to understand how someone can go from winning two golds one weekend to finishing outside of both finals the next, but it was a case of small margins and that's sometimes the way it goes in canoe slalom."

And Florence wasn't the only one performing erratically on the Olympic course. The first run of Michal Martikan, the reigning champ, was a bust, then he came back with the fastest time of all.

Choppy waters ahead for punters then, but, if you must dip your toe in, Martikan, a medallist in 10/11 world championships since 1995 and each of the last four Olympics, and Tony Estanguet, Olympic champion in 2000 and 2004, world championship medallist in 6/7 events since 2003, perform more consistently than most.

Great Britain have a perfect record against Brazil in women's football, winning both of their previous meetings. The South Americans are even money to put that record to bed at Wembley this evening and that looks about right.

Best Bet
Back Michal Martikan @ 1.758/11 to be Men's Canoe Slalom - Top 3

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