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A drag-racing Aussie boat finally prevails
Jim Morton
22:14 AEST Thu Aug 9 2012

Australia had been waiting desperately for a golden four-man `drag-racing' triumph on Lake Dorney.

But it came five days later than expected at the London Olympics, and in a kayak rather than a rowing shell.

Australia's K4 crew of Tate Smith, David Smith, Murray Stewart and Jake Clear did what Drew Ginn's new-model "Oarsome Foursome" could not when they exploded out of the gates and were never headed in their Olympic final.

Like Ginn's `drag race' tactics, which were expertly countered by Great Britain's revered men's four on Saturday, the kayak quartet also adopted a bold fast-start plan which surprised their European rivals.

The Australians jumped the field from the outset and enjoyed a half-second lead after 250m, and then continued to power on - holding the might of Hungary and Czech Republic at bay with another mid-race kick - to win in two minutes 55.085 seconds.

It was the same approach the tight-knit band used in last year's world titles when they led at 850m before the Germans swept home to steal the race in a world record time.

The experience had provided both confidence and motivation for the Australians, who honed their racing plan to perfection for the past two months in Hungary.

Frontman Tate Smith had been influential in changing the traditional Australian kayak tactics of building through a race and backing their superior fitness to storm home.

Smith took a year off after paddling at the Beijing Olympics and returned to the K4 with Stewart and Clear in 2010, hungry to take more ownership from the front

David Smith, a 2008 crewmate who is no relation, joined them last year after overcoming the disappointment of a harrowing Beijing campaign.

"I've always been at the back of the boat being a bigger, stronger guy but I said `look I'm going to sit at the front and use my power and rip this boat off the line and get it out there'," Tate Smith, 30, said.

"I've got these fit young guys behind me who can go all day and they just pushed really hard and pushed me all the way.

"I knew if we executed the start and got our first couple of strokes right then everything would fit into place. And from there it was perfect.

"We had a good lead and we could hear the crews coming but it was such a big race that we knew it would take something special to pass us."

Their victory denied Hungarian great Zoltan Kammerer a fourth Olympic gold medal and broke the German-Hungarian stranglehold on the final day of the longer-distance canoe sprint competition.

The fierce paddling rivals both finished with three gold from the eight finals over two days, with the Hungarians winning the women's K1 500 and men's C2 1000, and the Germans taking the women's K2 on Thursday.

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