LONDON – Four years after deciding to stick with kayaking instead of continuing his engineering career, Mark de Jonge was rewarded with a bronze medal at the London Olympics.
The Halifax native finished third behind Britain’s Ed McKeever and Spain’s Saul Craviotto in the K-1 200-metre final Saturday.
“I gave everything,” he said. “I ended up kind of dying a little at the end but that’s to be expected when you go all out.”
The result ended a long journey for the 28-year-old. An injury-plagued 2008 saw de Jonge miss the Beijing Games and nearly leave the sport entirely to concentrate on his engineering career.
But after the 200 sprint was introduced for London, de Jonge decided to take another run at the podium.
It paid off. His time of 36.657 seconds trailed only McKeever, a former world champion known as “the Usain Bolt of the water,” who won in 36.246, and Craviotto in 36.540.
De Jonge also overcame a scare in April when he broke a finger while working out, an injury that put his Olympic participation in doubt.
The injury was a non-factor in the final, but de Jonge, who owns an unofficial world best time of 33.804, couldn’t keep up with McKeever.
“I think the second half suffered a little,” said de Jonge. “I had a lot of fatigue in the second half but I just hung on and hoped for the best, shot my boat across the line and just waited for the results.”
The last Nova Scotian to medal in paddling was Steve Giles, who took bronze in the C-1 1,000 at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Shubenacadie’s Tracy Cameron is the only Bluenoser to hit the podium in any sport since Giles, taking bronze in 2008 in women’s double sculls rowing.
In other action on Saturday, Windsor’s Ryan Cochrane teamed up with Montreal’s Hugues Fournel to place seventh in the K-2 200 in 35.396 seconds. Russia’s Yury Postrigay and Alexander Dyachenko won gold in 33.507.
“Our plan was to go out and focus on our race, forget about everything else,” Cochrane told CTV. “We executed our plan better than (the semifinals). We did what we wanted to do. I’m not making an excuse, but the headwind was strong. It’s an outdoor sport … We obviously have to get better with the big headwinds.”
Although Cochrane and Fournel were disappointed not to medal, Fournel was energized by de Jonge’s podium finish.
“I’m so happy … Mark de Jonge is my best friend, my roommate, my everything, and just to medal, I’m going to be celebrating tonight on his behalf,” Fournel told CTV. “He’s one of my heroes now, by far.”
Dartmouth’s Jason McCoombs posted a fifth-place finish in the B final of the C-1 200 with a time of 44.973 seconds.