'Every medal is special and has their own unique place in my heart for individual reasons and the journeys I've undergone to acquire them' - Liam Heath says as he wins bronze
Great Britain’s Liam Heath has won a kayaking bronze medal in the men’s K1 200m at Sea Forest Waterway.
The 36-year-old defending Olympic champion clocked 35.202 seconds to finish third behind Hungary’s Sandor Totka, with Italian Manfredi Rizza taking silver.
Heath, who set an Olympic-best time of 33.985 seconds during Wednesday’s qualifying, took second in the opening semi-final to set up his medal assault.
And while he could not make it successive golds, it was Guildford-based Heath’s fourth Olympic medal following previous K2 sprint success at the Rio Games and London 2012.
Drawn in lane three, Heath delivered a consistent performance, but could not quite threaten the top two.
Totka and Rizza were separated by just 45-hundredths of a second, with Heath leading the charge behind them.
Heath said: “The journey has been so incredibly long, so incredibly tough, and I am happy where I have landed.
“The race could have gone a little bit better for me, but at the end of the day it is what it is and I am happy with the medal around my neck.”
He also told ITV News that "every medal is special, and has their own unique place in my heart for individual reasons as well, and the journeys I've undergone to acquire them".
He continued: "This one is incredibly special in its own right, and so is my gold, so is my silver, so is my first medal I won in London. I don't pick any one out above the rest because they are all incredible achievements to have to your name."
Heath says he will “wait and see” what happens with regards to whether he will compete in what could be his fourth games in Paris.
Asked if this might be his last Olympics, he said: “That’s a question still to be answered and thought about very deeply.
“It’s a decision that has got to be made between me, my family, and everyone at home in terms of the commitment that they put in and the support behind you.
“It is a unique position to be in because it’s just another three years (to Paris). It seems to be just around the corner.
“The 200m is unfortunately stepping back as an Olympic event, but there are new opportunities both in the slalom and the sprint, with the K2 500m being reintroduced, which has a legacy in this sport already. That’s something that I might turn towards.
“Those decisions still have to be made. You are on cloud nine at the minute, but you kind of forget all the hardship and sacrifices that people make and you make to get to where you are.
“It will take me a couple of weeks to look back, evaluate and see how happy I am to continue towards a fourth Games. We will have to wait and see.”
Heath said coming into the Olympics as a defending champion was a "completely different" experience.
He said: “As much as you try to push it to the back of your mind, coming into an event as a defending champion with everyone looking at you is very much there.
“In your mind, you try and keep focus on what you want to achieve. I’ve had challenges with doing that, but at the end of the day I managed to sort my head.
“It is a bit of a mental game. You can prepare your body as much as you can, but the brain is generally the engine.
“I suppose it has weighed on me a little bit, but not an incredible amount.
“It is very flattering to have everyone look to you as a beacon of performance and try to emulate and beat you. That is a very privileged position to be in.”
Elsewhere, 25-year-old Dina Asher-Smith made a comeback from her Olympic agony after pulling out of the 200 metres and failing to reach the 100m final last week, to help the 4x100m relay team set a new British record of 41.55 seconds to win their heat and reach the final.
The world 200m champion said: “Of course, it (a medal) would mean incredible things to everybody.
"We are the bronze medallists in Rio. It would be amazing for us to get another medal again, for all of us, for all of our lives, for all of our individual dreams and aspirations".
The British team qualified for Friday’s final fastest, ahead of the USA and Germany.
The men’s 4x100m relay team also reached Friday’s final after coming second in their heat. CJ Ujah, Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, Richard Kilty and Zharnel Hughes finished in 38.02 seconds.
Morgan Lake also made the high jump final after clearing the automatic qualifying height of 1.95m.
Andrew Pozzi lost out on a medal after coming seventh in the men’s 110m hurdles final in 13.30 seconds. Jamaica’s Hansle Parchment took gold in a shock ahead of favourite Grant Holloway of the USA with Ronald Levy third.
In marathon swimming, Hector Pardoe was forced to withdraw mid-race after being hit in the eye by the elbow of a fellow competitor.
In boxing, Galal Yafai has made it to the final of the men’s flyweight category after a narrow win against Saken Bibossinov. Yafai will take on Carlo Paalam of the Philippines on Saturday.
In track cycling, Great Britain’s Matt Walls has won the gold medal in the men’s omnium.
Meanwhile, Katy Marchant’s hopes in the women’s keirin ended as she crashed in the quarter-finals. Dutch rider Lauren van Riessen appeared to clip a wheel in front and swung up the bank to take Marchant out of the race.
The 28-year-old will now focus on the individual sprint on Friday. She took home bronze in the individual sprint in Rio.
And Jason Kenny’s defence of his Olympic men’s sprint title came to an end in the quarter-finals as he was beaten by Dutchman Harrie Lavreysen.
British divers Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix and Lois Toulson finished seventh and ninth, respectively, in the finals.
Spendolini-Sirieix put together a consistent series of dives, finishing with a best score of 72points for an overall tally of 305.5.
A poor second dive cost Toulson but she finished strongly. Her overall score was 289.6.
Gold went to 14-year-old Quan Hong Chan, who had two dives that scored perfect 10s across the board, with 15-year-old Chen Yu Xi taking silver and Australia’s Melissa Wu taking bronze.
Scott Brash and his horse Jefferson will not be part of Great Britain’s bid for ashowjumping team medal on Friday.
Jefferson suffered a minor strain during Wednesday’s individual final, when Brash finished equal seventh.
Newly-crowned Olympic individual champion Ben Maher will spearhead the team’s challenge on Explosion W, being joined by Holly Smith and Denver, while Harry Charles nowcompletes the trio aboard Romero 88.