From the moment he first picked up a paddle in the Water of Leith to the split second he composed himself on the start line in Rio yesterday, David Florence had dreamed of claiming an Olympic canoe slalom gold.
After winning two world titles to confirm himself as the best of his generation, the paddler from Balgreen desperately wanted to follow in the footsteps of his childhood near-neighbour Chris Hoy and feel the sensation of standing on top of the podium.
Opportunity knocked as the final of the C1 began but, instead, the Capital contender crashed and burned, finishing tenth and last after an error-filled performance that was a mile short of his best.
“There was a tight sequence of gates and I was just a bit out of position at the first one,” he said. “That put me off the second two and that was it really.”
But it got worse. “Gate eight, nine, ten went pretty catastrophically wrong. I tried desperately to get it back but didn’t manage it.”
Instead, he sat numb in his boat as the owners of the medals were confirmed with gold going to to France’s Denis Gargaud Chanut as he held off Slovakia’s Matej Benus with Japan’s Tayuka Haneda becoming Asia’s first-ever medallist in this sport.
A day after his 34th birthday, it was Florence’s rivals who were left to celebrate as the Scot wondered how it had gone so badly wrong when he was desperate for it to come even close to the perfect run he had in Monday’s heats. ven since London 2012, when he missed the C1 final completely, everything had been geared to at least matching the silver he claimed in this event in Beijing in 2008.
“It’s a long, long time to wait,” he said.
“I won the Olympic gold medal eight years ago now when I probably wasn’t as good a paddler and wasn’t as strong. Now I’m one of the guys who expects to be one of the top contenders and I back myself to be on that podium. It’s tough when you wait so long for the Olympics to come round.”
At least Florence doesn’t have to hang around for one more – and possibly his last – shot at the gold he desperately wants.
On Thursday, he’ll link up with Richard Hounslow in the final stages of the two-man C2 and bid to go one better than their second spot of four years ago.
“I won’t need picking up,” Florence claimed, even though he looked like someone who might need a crane to lift him out of the gloom.
“It’s up to me really. He’ll be there and ready to paddle. I hope he knows I will be ready to give it my all. Hopefully, we’ll put in a good run, get to the final, and who knows?”
This will sting but Florence will banish it from his mind.
“I’m used to disappointment, unfortunately, as most people who compete in sport are. But I’m used to coming back and I’ll go into the C2 the same whether I’d come first or come last.
“There are guys out there who will have to wait four years for another shot at an Olympic medal. I’ve only got to wait a couple of days for another chance.”