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Brendel held off a determined challenge from Brazil’s Isaquias Queiroz dos Santos to successfully defend his London 2012 crown. Though the home favourite produced a quicker stroke rate than his more experienced rival to lead at the start, the German’s strength proved decisive in the end.
“It was a good race that I did,” said the two-time champion, who has now won 17 of his 19 major races since his London triumph. “Of course it comes into your mind that you may lose, but I think I was extremely well prepared.”
Queiroz dos Santos had the consolation of collecting Brazil’s first ever Olympic medal in canoe sprint, while Serghei Tarnovschi’s bronze was only Moldova’s second canoe sprint medal and their first in any sport at Rio 2016. “My objective coming into the Rio 2016 Games is to win three medals,” said the Brazilian paddler. “So I got one. There’s still two left to go and I’m sure that I will be successful.”
In the women’s kayak single 200m final, Carrington recovered from a slow start to cross the line first in just under 40 seconds and continue her dominance since becoming the event’s very first gold medal winner in London. Undefeated in 13 major races in that time, the Kiwi topped the podium from Poland’s Marta Walczykiewicz and Azerbaijan’s Inna Osipenko-Rodomska, who took bronze to go with the silver she collected four years ago, when she competed for Ukraine. Osipenko-Rodomska’s medal is Azerbaijan’s first in any canoe sprint event.
“Every time you get on the podium it’s different,” said Carrington, who is also going for gold in the 500m event, which starts on 17 August. “It’s cool to be out there while still feeling the pressure and be able to compete. It’s amazing to finally make it here and do what I thought I could.”
In an enthralling men’s kayak single 1000m final, Spain’s Marcus Walz produced a stunning late burst to scoop gold ahead of the Czech Republic’s Josef Dostal and Russia’s Roman Anoshkin. Fernando Pimenta of Portugal made all the early running before Australia’s Murray Stewart and then Anoshkin took to the front. Timing his run to perfection, however, 21-year-old Walz surged up from fifth, with Dostal for company alongside him, before pipping the Czech to the line in a thrilling finish.
“Just incredible,” said Walz, after proving himself a worthy successor to compatriot David Cal, the winner of canoe single 1000m gold at Athens 2004 and four Olympic silvers. “I didn’t even know this year if I was going to qualify to go to the Olympics. Well, finally I did it. I just trained harder and harder these past months and I can’t even believe it. This is incredible. I feel great, incredible.”
There was an even tighter denouement in the women’s kayak double 500m final, with a photofinish needed to separate Gabriella Szabo and Danuta Kozak of Hungary and London 2012 champions Tina Dietze and Franziska Weber of Germany. Despite their fast finish, however, the Germans had to settle for silver, with Karolina Naja and Beata Mikolajczyk of Poland taking the bronze.
Understandably delighted to have squeezed home for the gold, Szabo said: “It was very, very hard for me. I still can’t believe it.” Kozak, who now has three canoe sprint medals to her name, added: “I just followed Gaby and I just did it. This is a dream.”