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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 August, 2004, 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK
Reeves reflects on medal mayhem
By Andrew Fraser
BBC Sport in Athens

Helen Reeves celebrates winning her bronze medal

Helen Reeves was forced to endure the most nailbiting 15 minutes of her life after becoming the first ever woman to win a canoeing medal for Great Britain.

Reeves and her large band of supporters had no idea she had finished third in the K1 kayak slalom event because the final scoreboard showed her down in fourth place.

And the disappointment was just starting to sink in when her British team-mates started yelling "bronze, bronze!" in her direction.

The 23-year-old from Nottingham then had to wait to find out if her French rival Peggy Dickens, whose third time penalty had not been registered by the scoreboard, would launch an appeal.

"It was horrible," said Reeves, looking nervously around at the scoreboard as she waited for the official result to be confirmed.

"It came up as fourth and then people were shouting at me saying I had a bronze. But it's fantastic now.

I thought I would like to be the first (to win gold), but bronze will do for now
Helen Reeves

"It's funny. For so long you are just the British canoe team, and then all of a sudden you are part of Team GB.

"It's a special feeling to be among those who win a medal.

"On television this morning they were talking about how we had not won any gold medals yet. I thought I would like to be the first, but bronze will do for now."

Reeves' medal - only Britain's third of the Games - sparked jubilation among her family and friends.

But her boyfriend, British C2 canoeist Tim Bailey, was forced to watch her dramatic charge to bronze on TV back in England.

Bailey, who missed out on Olympic qualification, could not afford to travel to Athens for the Games.

Helen Reeves
Reeves gets to grips with the tough slalom course in Athens

The Nottingham University computer expert was left with the prospect of updating Reeves' personal website, which he helped to set up.

"I couldn't afford to pay for him to come out, and he didn't have the money," she said.

"Unless you are at the very top of canoeing you don't earn a lot of money, so he's at work!"

Reeves, a junior world champion in 1996, had considered quitting after suffering dislocation problems with both her shoulders between 1998 and 2000.

"I had two dislocations and my left shoulder kept popping in and out all the time. I never knew where I stood," she said.

"But I had three operations and the third time they shrunk the capsule in my right shoulder so I'm restricted."

Reeves had finished 22nd in a qualification event at the course earlier this year, but won a World Cup event at La Seu in May to book her place in Athens.

She was fifth going into the final, but gave herself a chance by taking the lead with four competitors left to go after an error-strewn but lightning-quick run.

A nightmare run from Germany's Jennifer Bongardt left Reeves in with a chance.

But Dickens looked to have beaten her time, and Slovakia's Elena Kaliska and American Rebecca Giddens stayed out of trouble to take gold and silver respectively.

When the scoreboard error was corrected, however, Reeves had bronze by just 0.03 seconds.

"I knew I could do it," she said.

"It's quite an experienced game. A lot of the competitors are quite a bit older and I'm still a youngster, but I'd like to think experience wasn't everything.

"Some bits of my run were awesome and some not so good, so I'm over the moon to get bronze.

"I can't wait to watch the boys race and, fingers crossed, we'll have some more medals."

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