At the age of 16, Michal Martikan became the youngest winner of a World Cup slalom canoeing event. Three months later, now 17 years old, Martikan was in sixth place after the first run of the canoe slalom singles event at the Olympic Games in 1996.
With nothing to lose, he went all out on the second run and just bettered the score of defending champion Lukáš Pollert of the Czech Republic. Martikan was the first Olympic champion to represent independent Slovakia.
A perfect course for silver
He entered the 2000 Olympic Games as the favourite, having consistently finished near the top in every major competition and in each World Cup series. At these Games, Martikan registered the best score in the qualifying round, but was only in fifth place after the first run of the final. In the second run, he paddled a perfect course and his time was the fastest of the round. He was able to move up to the silver medal position behind Tony Estanguet of France.
A touch of silver
Competing in his third edition of the Olympic Games in 2004, Martikan again led the qualifying round. He also earned the highest score in the semi finals, which also served as the first run of the final. After the second run, it appeared that Martikan had regained the Olympic title, but a video review revealed that he had touched a gate and he ended up in second place only 12 hundredths of a point behind Estanguet.
Twelve years on, same success
For his fourth Olympic Games, in Beijing in 2008, the Slovak canoeist was still a serious contender for the title. He was even at the peak of his powers: he achieved the best time in three of the four rounds (heats, semi-final and final). Twelve years after his gold medal in Atlanta, Michal Martikan won his second Olympic title. Michal Martikan is the only slalom canoeist to win four Olympic medals.