Bradley Forbes-Cryans will leave Tokyo with his head held high after finishing sixth in the K1 canoe slalom in his first Olympics.
The 26-year-old Scot went into the competition as an outside chance for a medal and put together a fine semi-final run to qualify fifth for the final.
The time he posted would have been enough for a bronze medal but in the final he made an early mistake and then hit a gate, picking up a two-second penalty, to finish nearly nine seconds behind Czech winner Jiri Prskavec.
Forbes-Cryans did not have any regrets, though, saying of his sixth place: “That sounds absolutely fantastic. Coming to the Olympic Games, my only goal for myself was to do my best and I feel like I can walk away from this knowing that I’ve done that.
“In the final unfortunately I had a poor cross from gate four to gate five, which has cost me a medal there today. But I’m just absolutely thrilled to be here, I’ve loved every moment of it and I can’t wait to get home now to celebrate with all my friends and family.”
Forbes-Cryans was selected ahead of Joe Clarke, the Olympic champion from Rio, after finishing fourth at the world championships in 2019 – a decision that, although set out in selection criteria, did not go down well in some quarters.
Asked if he had proved the doubters wrong, Forbes-Cryans said: “I think any British athlete that secures their spot to compete at the Olympic Games absolutely deserves to be there and the naysayers, they’re a very small minority and generally they’re on the side of the person who’s missed out.
The coronavirus pandemic disrupted Forbes-Cryans’ build-up to the Games but he was immediately aware of the wider impact after his father suffered a stroke and then contracted Covid-19.
Thankfully he recovered, and Forbes-Cryans said: “Everyone has their own problems in life that they’ve got to deal with. For me that was just one of those things.
“That was really difficult for me and my family to deal with at the time. When I visited him in hospital, all he wanted me to do was to get on with my job of preparing as well as I could for the Olympic Games, and I did that. I love those guys so much. I can’t wait to get home and see them.”