Even though we're ten days into the Games of the 29th Olympiad there are still some competitors yet to get their campaigns underway. Two such athletes are pre-Beijing Londonist interviewees Jessica Walker (above left) and Anna Hemmings who, at 11am precisely (all times BST) will have about 1 minute and 40 seconds to paddle their kayak over the 1000m course at Shunyi, recently vacated by the rowers, and qualify for Thursday morning's semi-finals. They've only been canoeing together since April this year, but they're both champions individually and they're getting better and better with each session and every race. Their never-say-die attitude should make for gripping racing and we wish them all the very best in their heat during which onlookers would be well advised to take evasive aural measures within earshot of Londonist.
We're also getting quite excited about London's sailors who were looking on the verge of slipping from medal contention this time yesterday, but are now right back on, err, tack for some precious metal. Both windsurfer Bryony Shaw and Star sailor Andrew Simpson are poised handily in fourth place in their respective events heading into the final tranche of races. Stuart Alexander is in Qingdao for The Independent:
In the Star class, all the joking and flip humour for which he is known has been discarded by Iain Percy, gold medallist in the Finn in Sydney. His crew, Andrew 'Bart' Simpson stands silently by with about as much sympathy in his expression as a hired assassin. They had a second and first yesterday and had only cautionary comments to make... "We were fully concentrated and were quite stressed," said Percy. "I think we got away with it... This regatta hasn't clicked at all. We haven't had any breaks, but I feel better now than I have at any time for two years," he said, adding: "We've got a long way to go and this is going right down to the wire."
Sadly, this is unlikely to be the scenario for Will Howden in the multihull Tornado which is currently languishing in twelfth position and regrettably the medal prospects of our other pre-Games interviewees, men's and women's hockey captains Ben Hawes and Kate Walsh seem equally forlorn, despite both squads at times punching above their perceived ranking weight. Yesterday's goalless draw with the USA officially limits the women's horizons to the playoff for fifth and sixth place, which still constitutes a fine showing, especially if they can best the Australians in that fixture, and an added bonus is that their performance has already qualified them for next year's Champions Trophy tournament, marking the first time they will have participated in six years. The men still have a straw to cling to, in that they can go for a medal if they can crush Australia today at 1:30 while the Netherlands lose heavily to a Pakistan side already defeated by England. Wonderful as that would be, the fifth and sixth place playoff is also their most likely destination.
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There is happier news from Hong Kong where, despite the failure of the British team to make an impression on the medal placings, the individual performance of show jumper Ben Maher has put him into an excellent position going into Thursday's individual final. Maher's immaculate clear round in the midst of much fence clattering from fellow competitors belies the fact that this is the 25 year old's first Olympics in a team where he is the youngest member by 18 years and the senior rider celebrated his fifty-third birthday a fortnight ago. Even at that age, John Whittaker's presence in the team final was denied at the insistence of seven of the eight other nations going for podium positions after he had been forced to scratch from Sunday's qualifiers as his horse was suffering stiffness in his back.
One man who might be feeling a bit achy himself after this morning's exertions would be Tim Don, the world's number one ranked triathlete who was born in London, went to school in Hounslow and still likes to run in Bushy Park near his parents' house though he lives in Loughborough these days. Tim, son of former Premiership referee Philip, will have extra cause to give his all after fighting to regain last year his Olympic eligibility following the missing of three drug tests in an eighteen month period, an experience he, of course, shares with 400m runner Christine Ohuruogu, one of our brightest hopes for a gold in the Bird's Nest today. Ohuruogu's final is set for ten past three in the afternoon, though the final event of Tuesday's athletics programme at 3:50pm will see Andy Baddeley battle for honours in the climax of the 1500m.
On the infield Martyn Bernard and, in particular, Germaine Mason could pick up an unexpected medal in the men's high jump final which starts at ten past midday by which time Jade Johnson should have secured passage to the women's long jump final from her qualifiers which begin at 2:40am. Back out on the track Jo Pavey will put 10,000m disappointment behind her as she goes in round one of the 5,000m at 12:35pm while at 1:45pm Andy Turner will attempt to progress beyond round two of the 110m hurdles.
No medal for Rebecca Romero in the cycling points race, sadly, but she already has a gold to look at for the rest of her life. Triple jumper Philips Idowu is favourite to have one in his own collection tomorrow after qualifying comfortably for the final along with Larry Achike, while Natasha Danvers is looking more and more stylish as she booked her place in the 400m hurdles final and Sarah Claxton is simply ecstatic at reaching hers at 3:30pm today over the higher 100m barriers.