NEWS

Last Olympic Push: Canada Looks For Medals In Mountain Biking, Kayak On Final Weekend

08/10/2012 12:09 EDT | Updated 10/10/2012 05:12 EDT
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LONDON - Canada enters the final weekend of the Olympics on the hunt for hardware in mountain biking and kayaking as it looks to deliver on its goal of a top-12 finish in the medal standings.

Two-time world champion Catharine Pendrel leads the Canadian charge in the mountain bike cross-country Saturday. The 32-year-old from Kamloops is currently No. 1 in the UCI world rankings.

Pendrel has three World Cup victories in 2012 and won the test event here. Four years ago, she was fourth in Beijing where she missed out on a medal by nine seconds.

The field of 30 including under-23 world champion Julie Bresset of France who had three World Cup wins in 2011 and another in 2012.

Norway's Gunn-Rita Dahlia Flesjaa is also a contender. The 39-year-old Olympic champion in Athens, who became a mother in 2009, has two World Cup wins this year. Defending Olympic champion Sabine Spitz of Germany is also in the field.

The course, at Hadleigh Farm in Essex, features a man-made five-kilometre track overlooking the Thames estuary. It should be a good course for viewers with most of the route visible.

"The Olympic course is going to be really fast," Pendrel said. "It's going to be more laps and a shorter lap than what is typical in mountain biking, so it's easier for people at home to watch it and cheer us on. It's going to be fast hard-packed ground.

"They've done a lot of work inserting obstacles because basically they've had to create a course oceanside in England. They've done a really good job. They've made it fun. It will be interesting to see how it races. I think it will be pretty tactical racing, very exposed, could be pretty windy."

The race is expected to last 90 minutes. The men go Sunday.

In canoe-kayak action, Mark de Jonge goes after a medal in the K-1 200-metre race at Eton Dorney.

The 28-year-old from Halifax won both his heat and semifinal but is up against a tough field, including Britain's Ed McKeever.

De Jonge said there was no holding back in the prelims.

"In order to make the final, you have to give everything you have," he said. "I don't know, we'll see what happens (Saturday) I guess."

Hugues Fournel of Lachine, Que., and Ryan Cochrane of Windsor, N.S. — not to be confused with the Canadian swimmer of the same name — are in the final of the K-2 200 metres.

On the track, the Canadian men's 4x100 relay team races in the final after finishing an impressive third in qualifying.

The team of Justyn Warner of Markham, Ont., Gavin Smellie of Brampton, Ont., Jared Connaughton of New Haven, P.E.I., and Ottawa's Oluseyi Smith finished in 38.05 seconds, behind the United States and Jamaica.

"We feel we can compete with the Jamaicans," Connaughton said. "This is not a 200 metre race where there are thoroughbreds. This is a team thing and that's what separates us."

In other action Saturday:

— Francois Coulombe-Fortier of Quebec City competes in 80-kilogram-plus taekwondo.

— Cameron Levins runs in the men's 5,000-metre track final. The 23-year-old from Black Creek, B.C., was 11th in the 10,000 last week, and won both the 5,000 and 10,000 at the NCAA championships this year for the University of Southern Utah.

— In Sunday action:

— Melanie McCann of Mount Carmel, Ont., and Donna Vakalis of Toronto compete in modern pentathlon.

— Dylan Wykes of Kingston, Ont., Reid Coolsaet of Hamilton and Eric Gillis of Antigonish, N.S., run in the men's marathon.

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