Lucien Delfour knew he had to pull off something special if he was to keep his K1 slalom Olympic dream alive, and when he crossed the line after his second run he thought he’d done it.
But in a split second his dream became a nightmare. Officials had ruled he missed a gate, and the 50 second penalty meant his Olympic debut was over.
“I’m disappointed and shocked,” Delfour said after the race.
“I crossed the finish line and though I’d done a good run. But then I saw the 50 second penalty, and I didn’t know where it came from. I didn’t know which gate I missed.
“In my opinion it was really unfair. Once again there is no benefit of the doubt, which is the most heartbreaking thing. This sort of thing shouldn’t happen at a Games.”
Delfour was sitting 17th ahead of his run, and as the last athlete on the course he had to leap two places to make the top 15 and earn a gig in the semi-finals.
The Australian team immediately challenged the 50 second penalty, with an overhead camera showing it was a very tight call.
Australian Canoeing’s National Performance Director, Richard Fox, said it was a gut wrenching call.
“It really is such a fine line,” Fox said.
“In our view, it was a harsh call, but those are the rules of the sport. And if you put yourself in that position, the call can go for you or against you.”
“But Lucien has shown he is worthy of being here. Without the penalty he would have been top ten, which is a great effort on a second run.”
Delfour is considered one of the fastest paddlers in the world, but he is also a risk taker who cuts gates extremely fine.
And after what he considered a cautious first run, he had to put everything on the line for his second effort.
“I was a bit nervous, but I thought I had nothing to lose, I just had to go and do my best,” Delfour said.
“I tried to cut some lines, make some gates and be a bit tighter because I thought I was too safe on the first run.
“I’m pleased with the way I paddled. I know I can do better. This year has been full of ups and downs, I’m proud of where I am now.”