Liam Heath landed bronze in the men’s K1 200m event on Thursday morning after a slow start scuppered his chances of successfully defending his Rio title.
The 36-year-old from Guildford qualified second fastest in the semi-finals at the Sea Forest Waterway earlier but a poor start – his weakness throughout this week – meant he was unable to overhaul Hungary’s Sandor Totka, who took gold in 35.035seconds.
Heath finished just behind with 35.202s. Manfredi Rizza of Italy, took silver.
Liam Heath took home bronze in the K1 200m event after a poor start scuppered his chances
Heath, who set an Olympic-best time of 33.985s during Wednesday’s qualifying, was bidding for a fourth Olympic medal following previous K2 sprint success at the Rio Games and London 2012.
‘I was a bit hesitant off the start and perhaps didn’t reach my full potential in terms of peak speed,’ admitted Heath. ‘I’m still happy with my performance.’
He then paid tribute to his family and support team after landing a medal at a third successive Games, saying: ‘It’s hard to put it into words really, it’s what you’re working towards just to be at your best for these events. I learned so much along my journey.
‘Each Games, each competition you learn a lot more about you, the people you’re competing against, people you work with day in day out. It’s then working the hardest behind the scenes which provides the support for me to be able to achieve my dreams.
Heath congratulates Hungary’s gold medallist Sandor Totka following Thursday’s final
‘So a massive thanks to everyone watching at home, it’s not quite the gold but I’m happy with my performance and I hope you guys can be happy too.’
On the question of retirement, Heath replied: ‘It a big question and something I’ve got to think about a bit more seriously now. It’s a joint decision with me, my wife and my whole family because of the amount of effort that goes into each cycle.
‘It’s only a few years away now, it’s a short cycle round to Paris. The event’s leaving the Olympic programme but there’s a new opportunity once again in the K2 500m which wouldn’t be my preferred event but I’ve still got to think about that.’
Meanwhile, Team GB’s Deborah Kerr, a finalist in the women’s K1 200m, returned to action in the K1 500m semi-finals.
The 23-year-old Scot, though, was unable to threaten in terms of qualification for the final, finishing seventh as Hungary’s Tamara Csipes and Belgian Hermien Peters progressed.
The Hungarian athlete celebrates on the water after claiming gold in the final in Tokyo