WINDSOR, England — If American kayaker Tim Hornsby needed any inspiration ahead of his Olympic debut, he need only look to the performance of his girlfriend at the London Games.
Becky Holliday wasn’t expected to qualify for the final of the pole vault. Heck, it was a surprise that she was at the Olympics at all.
But she did qualify, and her ninth-place finish was as much a cause for celebration as the gold medal won in the event by teammate Jenn Suhr in the Olympic Stadium.
Holliday’s Olympics are far from over. On Friday, she is expected to travel to the other side of London, and then some more, to be at Dorney Lake to cheer on Hornsby — her boyfriend of three years — when he goes in the heats of the 200-meter K-1.
“It was incredible. It was awesome watching her,” said Hornsby, who walked alongside Holliday at the opening ceremony on July 27. “I’m really inspired by what she did.”
Reaching the final of the 200, a new event on the Olympic canoe sprint program, would be a huge breakthrough for Hornsby.
He qualified for his first summer games after beating Ryan Dolan to the United States’ sole place in the event after a long, selection process.
“I have set some new goals: first to make the final, and well, you can probably guess the next one!” he said.
Shaun Caven, the U.S. canoe sprint coach, said Hornsby has made great strides in recent years but that the competition at the Olympics would be fierce.
“Anything for him is like bonus time,” Caven said. “If he can make the B final, or the A final, we’ll be jumping in the lake.”
Hornsby shouldn’t be discounted. There is often very little between competitors’ times in 200-meter races, which last around 35 seconds and are a blur of splashing water and whirling arms.
One mistake at the start and you can forget about winning, like in the 100-meter dash in track. Hornsby, however, said it isn’t simply an all-out explosive sprint to the line.
“Everybody has their own strengths — some guys get out in the start better, some guys carry their speed in the middle better, and some guys come home better,” he said.
Carrie Johnson will also be competing for the U.S. in 200 in the women’s event. She failed to reach the final of the 500-meter K-1 after being placed in a tough semifinal on Tuesday.
“It’s hard to say what’s her best event because she’s good at both,” Caven said. “It looks from the World Cup results that the 200 is her better event.”
By: STEVE DOUGLAS