De Jonge trying to engineer gold
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
Canada's Mark de Jonge competes in the men's kayak single (K1) 200m semifinal at the Eton Dorney during the London 2012 Olympic Games August 10, 2012. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside
LONDON - The waters of the Eton College Rowing Centre haven’t exactly yet been golden for Canada, but they have been a productive venue to visit in search of Maple Leaf medal.
With three silver and a bronze won already at the site — first for rowing and then canoe-kayak, 28-year-old Halifax native Mark de Jonge will try to add to that total early Saturday morning.
Competing in the fastest event to be contested at Eton — the 200-metre K-1 200 metres — de Jonge led wire-to-wire in Friday’s semifinal heat, with a final surge of his kayak being just enough to edge Spaniard Saul Craviotto at the finish in a time of 35.595 seconds.
“It felt good to do so well at such a big event,” de Jonge said after paddling his way to an impressive semi win. “This is my first international race this year. It was really good to have somebody pushing me.”
His performance on Friday was a breakout effort on multiple levels. Earlier this year, it looked like de Jonge’s Olympic dream might have been dashed after a freak injury in training resulted in a broken finger. Given that he had put his career as an engineer on hold to pursue his Olympic dream, it was even more concerning.
But after beating out Olympic veteran Richard Dobber Jr. at the Canadian trials, de Jonge earned his first ticket to the Olympics in an event that is making its debut at the Games. The Canadian team wasn’t pleased after the 2008 Beijing Olympics when the sport’s governing body decided to drop the 500 metre races — a race often dominated by four-time Olympic medallist Adam van Koeverden of Oakville.
Because of the change, van Koeverden only raced in the 1,000-metres here, winning a silver medal on Wednesday.
But de Jonge has come a long way fast - make it a short way, given the distance of his event — and has thrust himself into medal contention. London bookmaker William Hill has him listed as the second choice in the race at odds of 7-2. Brit Ed McKeever, the winner of the other semi-final, is the 4-7 favourite.
Those odds certainly improved for the Canadian when 2011 world champion Piotr Siemionowski of Poland finished sixth in his semi and didn’t advance. Though he is a first time Olympian, de Jonge clearly likes the water at Eton, finishing third in a test event here last year.
Overall, Eton has been good to the Canadian team as well. In Week 1 of the Games when the rowing competition took place here, both the men’s and women’s eight crews won a silver medal. On Wednesday, van Koeverden’s silver was accompanied by Mark Oldershaw winning bronze in the C-1, 1,000 metres.
Canada will have another shot at a medal on Saturday after Hugues Fournel and Ryan Cochrance - the kayaker, not the swimmer - advanced in the K-2, 200 by finishing fourth in their semi.
“We have a better race waiting for us tomorrow,” Cochrane said. “We haven’t had our best race yet.”