Carrington savours gold medal win

Even with an Olympic gold medal around her neck, Lisa Carrington says it will take some time for the biggest win of her canoe sprint career to sink in.

The 23-year-old Bay of Plenty paddler outlasted the rest of the eight-strong field in the women's K1 200 metre final on Saturday to add the Olympic title to her world crown.

"It's kind of hard to believe that I've got this gold medal in my hand," she said.

"It's cool to make a mark and hopefully be in some people's memories of the London Olympics."

The patch of Olympic water on Dorney Lake, west of London, has provided plentiful bounty for New Zealand over the past 10 days.

Four gold medals from a team total of five have come from the Eton Dorney course in rural Buckinghamshire, with rowing getting the three others.

Carrington looked relaxed on the start line, although she confessed later to feeling nervous deep down.

Poland's Marta Walczykiewicz shot out of the blocks, but Carrington had reined her in by the 100m mark and then battled Ukraine's Inna Osypenko-Radomska for the lead.

"I could sense that the Polish girl out to the right of me was winning, but I told myself that after the 100 was when I was going to go," she said.

"The last 20 metres, everything seized up and I couldn't believe I couldn't paddle any more and I was hoping no one was going to pass me."

She urged herself on, telling herself: "Just go for it, gold medal, gold medal."

Victory makes Carrington the inaugural female Olympic champion for what is a new event on the programme.

It also lifted New Zealand's medal count from the London Games to 13, equalling the record established in Seoul in 1988.

A headwind meant Carrington couldn't match the Olympic-best time of 40.528sec she set in taking out her semi-final on Friday.

But in clocking 44.638s, she finished half a second ahead of Osypenko-Radomska.

Hungarian Natasa Douchev-Janics, a three-time world champion over 200m and three-time Olympic gold medallist over 500m, had to settle for bronze.

From a surf lifesaving background, Carrington first started looking seriously at canoe sprint when she was 17 and in her final year at Whakatane High School.

She realised she had the goods to make it to the very top when she won the K1 200m at a World Cup event at Duisberg, in Germany, in May last year.

Three months later, she shot to international prominence when she took out the world title in the same event in Szeged in Hungary.

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