If Murray Stewart’s sprint canoe opponents in the K1 1000 thought the Australian might have slowed as a result of his battle with glandular fever, then they received a rude shock on Monday morning in Rio.
30-year-old Stewart left a world-class field in his wake as he powered into Tuesday’s final, showing no ill-effects from the illness that kept him off the water for two months earlier this year.
Making the final is already an improvement on London four years ago, when illness kept him below his best, eventually finishing 16th.
“It’s definitely been a bit of a mission of mine since missing out on the K1 final in London, I’ve definitely been very keen to right that wrong,” Stewart said.
“Now that I’m there I think it’s a little bit of pressure off and I can just go out there tomorrow and have a real crack.”
Stewart is a man on a mission in Brazil. His battle with glandular fever could not have come at a worse time in the lead up to Rio, forcing selectors to make tough decisions in terms of crews.
But while he was devastated he will not get the chance to help defend the K4 1000 gold medal he helped win in London, it’s opened up a new door for him.
“It’s a pity that I’m not in the K4, I really wanted to be there to defend that title,” he said.
“But the one thing it has probably given me is that little bit of extra time to focus on the K1, just to try and tweak a few things in my race strategy.
“That’s one big thing that we’ve been working on, is try and have a much stronger finish then I’ve had in the past. I was feeling strong out there, and hopefully I’ve got a few more gears to go in the final.”
The men’s K1 has already suffered its first casualty, with London 2012 silver medallist Adam van Koeverden eliminated in Stewart’s semi-final.