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Kayak Ken kicks off well in K2
By Jim Morton
22:34 AEST Mon Aug 6 2012

Ken Wallace isn't in his preferred boat but the Olympic kayak champion again looks like Australian Canoeing's go-to man at the London Games.

Teaming with new partner David Smith in the K2 1000m, Wallace will line up for the third Olympic final of his career on Wednesday.

Wallace and Smith were by far Australia's most impressive performers on an otherwise disappointing opening day of canoe sprint action at Eton Dorney on Monday.

Although he's unable to defend his K1 500 gold medal because the medium-distance race has been canned, the Gold Coast lifesaver is a legitimate hope of adding to the two medals he won in the single kayak in Beijing.

Wallace and Smith pushed Sweden's 2004 Olympic champions, currently ranked second in the world, all the way in their semi-final to finish just a foot behind in a personal best three minutes 13.239 seconds.

"It's good to know we're definitely in the mix for what is really our first hit-out internationally," said Wallace, who only teamed with Smith in late May.

The Germans are the favourites for gold after automatically qualifying for Wednesday's final with a four second heat victory over the Australians, who did lead home the world champion Slovaks.

Wallace missed out to Murray Stewart for the sole K1 1000 spot but conceded his fast improvement with Wollongong paddler Smith made up for the initial disappointment.

"No matter what I'm happy with where we are and the K2 is definitely a new challenge and it's definitely a different race," he said.

The new combination was the only one of four Australian boats in action on Monday to progress to finals.

Stewart, a key member of the No.2-ranked K4 1000 crew, had a disappointing start to his Olympic campaign by crashing out in sixth in the semi-finals, fading badly after a strong start.

Brisbane schoolboy Jake Donaghey, picked to debut in the C2 event, was unsurprisingly off the pace after being forced to race the C1.

The most deflating result was the women's K4 500m crew of Rachel Lovell, Hannah Davis, Jo Brigden-Jones and Lyndsie Fogarty who came to London expecting to be in medal contention.

Ranked fifth in the world, the signs were ominous when the quartet were last in their six-boat heat.

They needed a top-four finish in their second-chance semi-final, but also lagged home in sixth in a tight race won by Poland.

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