Kayaker Simpson does Wallace a big favour

Unheralded paddler Joel Simpson did Olympic champion Ken Wallace and his K1 1000m rivals a massive favour on Friday by qualifying a solo kayaking position for Australia at the London Games.

Simpson secured an extra spot in the Australian flatwater canoeing team by beating all-comers in his opening K1 200m race at the Oceania titles in Penrith.

The explosive Queenslander dominated the race at the Sydney International Regatta Centre to triumph in 36.7 seconds, almost two seconds ahead of compatriot Nick Dawe.

New Zealand’s former K1 world champion Ben Fouhy was expected to challenge for the Olympic spot but finished fourth, behind Cook Islands paddler Josh Utanga.

Despite the win and qualifying the boat for London, Simpson’s Olympic squad selection remains in serious doubt as Australia can only take one specialist K1 paddler to the 2012 Games.

As Wallace, the Beijing K1 500m gold medallist, is a world-class competitor and strong medal prospect he is regarded as a virtual certainty to take the position if he wins his own selection battle in the K1 1000.

Wallace’s qualifying campaign begins in earnest on Saturday morning when he lines up against fellow Olympic champion Clint Robinson and a host of rising kayakers led by Sydney star Murray Stewart.

Veteran Robinson has a huge task to qualify for the event he won at the 1992 Barcelona Games as a 20-year-old after finishing 16 seconds behind Stewart in his comeback race seven weeks ago.

Stewart and Gold Coaster Wallace are considered the favourites for the three-round selection battle which culminates at the national sprint championships, also in Penrith, in a fortnight.

But Stewart is also seen as a strong medal prospect with his K4 1000 crew, as well as an important member of the K2 boat.

Fouhy will also line up as Australia’s major challenger in the longer-distance event but the trans-Tasman battle is no longer as important due to Simpson’s victory.

Simpson remains focussed on continuing his form over the remainder of the Oceania titles and the nationals but was happy with his opening victory.

“Obviously Ben Fouhy is an Olympic silver medallist and the other guys are all pretty good, so it’s good to win it,” he said.

Stay up to date with the latest sports news
Follow our social accounts to get exclusive content and all the latest sporting news!