Lucien Delfour’s speed was his saviour in a thrilling head-to-head battle with Jaxon Merritt in the race-off for the third and final Olympic nomination trial at the Oceania Championships in Penrith on Sunday.
Both men entered today with one win apiece in the best of three selection trials.
With a potential place in Rio up for grabs, both men left nothing to chance in the final, throwing caution to the wind and despite picking up multiple gate touches on his final run Delfour prevailed by 0.68 seconds.
The world number three was relieved to have come out on top.
“I am really happy, I feel like I deserve it but I am just really relieved,” Delfour said post-race.
“It has been a really long wait, especially those last two months, it was just all about Rio.
It was a day of mixed emotions for Delfour after it appeared that Merritt had won the selection battle in the semi-final with Delfour clinging to tenth place with two boats to go.
But Frenchman Mathieu Biazizzo and American Michal Smolen failed to beat Delfour’s time, securing him a place in the final.
“Obviously, that wasn’t ideal, the wait on the first run wasn’t long but it was pretty bad,” Delfour said.
“My first run was not that bad at all but I made a fairly big mistake in the middle section of the course and I lost a bit of confidence but I just had to calm down, paddle and recover and just put it behind me.”
Delfour’s nomination battle win completes a long journey for the French Polynesian born paddler after he received his Australian Citizenship in 2015.
The 27-year-old has already started looking ahead to Rio where is hoping to perform better than he did today having gained plenty of confidence from performing under pressure.
“It was a fast time but it could have been two seconds faster and the fact it is selections you have so much pressure on it makes it so much harder to paddle at your best,” Delfour said.
“I think today and Friday were a big step in my training and my career, I have never been to the Games so I do not know what it is like, to be honest but the difference is you know at selections you just have everything to lose and not that much to win apart from that spot on the team but at the Games you hopefully can enjoy the event.”
Delfour finished 5.70 seconds behind London Olympic silver medallist Vavrinec Hradilek who won the final in 92.08, 0.09 seconds ahead of German Sebastian Schubert.
Australian Open champion Vit Prindis finished third in 94.48 as the Czech Republic dominated the final filling four of the top five places.
Merritt finished ninth in 98.48. The result should see him secure a place on the senior national team with an official announcement to be made on Monday.