Rio Olympics: Stephen Bird fades in canoe sprint final

Stephen Bird during the final. Photo: Getty
Stephen Bird during the final. Photo: Getty

AFTER powering off at the start of the K1 200m kayak sprint finals, Mount Pleasant kayaker Stephen Bird faded in his quest for gold at Rio on Saturday night, finishing eighth.

But a beaming Bird said it had been a high order goal and he was happy to be in the finals.

“It was very inspiring for me, especially with nothing to lose,” he said.

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It was his first A final at international level.

The South African-born 28 year old was in terrific form but fighting a headwind, he appeared to tire with 50m still to go.

He was also battling an elite bunch of paddlers, including Great Britain’s Liam Heath who took out the gold and with whom Bird trained and undertook time trials.

Heath had a poor start but surged through to snatch victory.

Bird was competing in his second Olympics since being placed sixth in the K2 200 metres with Jesse Philips at the London Olympics.

He won gold in the 2016 Oceania Championships in Adelaide in February and again at the National Sprint Championships in March.

As an eight-year-old, Bird started paddling in second hand kayaks with his brother on his family’s damsd in the small farming village of Richmond in South Africa.

He began to get serious after taking up water sports at school and tried his hand at slalom, downriver, marathon and sprint.

He migrated to Perth in 2007.