Olympic glory arrives for Old Bonalbo girl
JACQUI Lawrence went to Beijing an unknown, but last night the world's press dubbed her the 'Whitewater Princess' after she became the second Australian woman to win an Olympic slalom kayaking medal.
And the Old Bonalbo native's Silver Medal-winning performance on the most treacherous artificial rapids ever seen in Olympic competition, has officially made Australia the world's third-best slalom paddling nation.
The toughness of the course, combined with 26-year-old Jacqui's calm and error-free approach, delivered her Olympic glory when Czech world No.1 Stepanka Hilgertova wiped out and highly-rated Frenchwoman Emilie Fer missed a gate.
Were it not for the outstanding performance of Slovakia's Elena Kaliska, who tore through the course, Jacqui would have won Gold.
“I was so excited when I finished and went into fourth with three paddlers left, I would have been happy with that but this is beyond my wildest dreams,” she said. “Gold crossed my mind but I was already so happy to have a silver medal.”
Father and Old Bonalbo Central School teacher Laurie Lawrence, who trained Jacqui and her sisters Kate and Rosalyn in white water kayaking, was at Shunyi with Jacqui and his wife Sarah, and was choked with excitement when The Star spoke to him just after the win.
“She made no mistakes and has got her reward,” he said.
Mr Lawrence said Jacqui won her medal by resisting the pressures of the event.
“It's the pressure and it's how many people the pressure gets to,” he said. “If the pressure doesn't get you, you have a chance, and we've seen that today. She stayed cool and she didn't change her plan.”
The silver caps a remarkable journey for Jacqui, who started the sport with her sisters on family canoeing trips down the Clarence River before taking their love for paddling further in school sport.
Mr Lawrence even built a dam on their family's property on which the sisters put up slalom gates to practice.
“It's a funny story isn't it,” Jacqui said. “Dad built a big dam supposedly for the cows, but really it was for Kate and I.”