Tony Estanguet's older brother, Patrice, won a bronze medal in the canoe slalom singles event at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Four years later, it was Tony's turn to represent France at the same event at the Sydney Games.
Tony Estanguet did not enter the 2000 Sydney Games as one of the favourites. However, in the first round of the final, he completed a perfect run and built a significant lead over Slovakia’s Michal Martikan. In the second run, it was Martikan who was fastest, but Estanguet held on to claim gold. This proved the start of an epic Olympic rivalry.
At the 2004 Athens Games, Estanguet qualified slightly behind Martikan in the preliminary heats. But in the final run, Estanguet paddled a penalty-free course. The pressure was on Martikan who subsequently touched a gate, allowing Estanguet to win by 12 hundredths of a point.
In Beijing, Estanguet was chasing a third consecutive Olympic title. Unfortunately he never found his rhythm. In sixth place after the heats, he went on to finish ninth in the semi-final and did not qualify for the final. Fittingly it was Michal Martikan, his great rival, who won the competition. Estanguet remains the only whitewater canoeist to have successfully defended his Olympic title.