Hannah Olympics bound

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Hannah Craig has become the latest competitor from Northern Ireland to qualify for the Olympic Games as the Armoy canoeist secured her place in London 2012 at the European Championships in Augsburg, Germany, last week.

Competing in the women’s K1 canoe slalom, the Ireland number one needed to claim one of only two places that were on offer for nations that had failed to qualify at last year’s world championships.

Craig finished 25th after the two runs and although she had mixed feelings about not qualifying in the top twenty to move on to the semi-finals there was delight at doing what she needed to do to make her first Olympics.

“My time was really fast and I was very happy with that and it would have put me in the top ten but I was frustrated with my touch near the end that cost me penalties because that was something that could have been avoided so there was mixed feelings about that but overall feelings of relief I guess,” she explained.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet, it felt just like any other race but I really wanted to go and race in London because I think the course is very exciting and they’ve built a fantastic venue at Lee Valley.

“I wanted to be part of that and I always wanted to perform there and I guess there was the first step and I’m so happy we did it.”

Craig spent her formative years in North Antrim growing up on a farm before her family moved to France which is where her love of canoeing began and to now reach the point of Olympic qualification has taken years with high and low points along the way.

“I am proud that I performed on the day and that I know I can perform on a world stage,” she added.

“I am proud to be an Irish athlete and I can’t wait for the Games. I want to take this chance to thank Han as my partner and coach and my wider support team at the Sports Institute Northern Ireland and Sport Northern Ireland as well as the Irish Sports Council.”

Now Craig can focus on the end of July and taking on the world’s best on the biggest stage of her career to date.

“It’s funny I came to this course in Germany eleven years ago as a junior with no real Olympic ambitions, I just enjoyed paddling and I never thought that eleven years later I’d be back here to qualify a spot for Ireland and to get an opportunity to go forward and perform at an Olympics,” she said.

“I am really happy.”