- 09 Oct 2014
- Sydney 2000
Canoeing - Birgit Fischer (GER)
Birgit Fischer arrived in Sydney as an international canoeing legend. She had been winning Olympic medals for an extraordinary 20 years. Competing for East Germany she had won her first gold back in 1980, and taken two more golds and a silver in 1988.
She continued her success as part of the unified German team, winning gold and silver medals in both 1992 and 1996. By the time she arrived in Australia she was 38. Could she really keep her incredible run going?
She had two chances to do so: in the K2 doubles and the K4 quad. First up was the fours, in which Germany boasted a formidable recent record. Their most likely challenger was Hungary, who had recently won the world title. Sure enough these two were the strongest in qualifying.
The final proved a tight race, with the initiative changing hands more than once, but in the end it was Fischer and her team-mates who prevailed, coming home by a margin of just under half a second.
Fischer and team-mate Katrin Wagner were back in action the following day as they went in search of the K2 title.
This final was expected to be even closer, with Poland, Hungary, Australia, Romania and Canada all fielding strong pairs. Fischer's magnificent record may have made the Germans favourites, but few expected them to have an easy time of it.
However, Fischer and Wagner were in imperious form, taking an early lead and gradually extending their advantage. As Hungary, Poland and Romania battled for second place, the German victory was never in serious doubt and they won by more than 1.5 seconds.
It was a historic victory for Fischer, who became the first woman to win two or more medals at four different Summer Olympics. She also joined swimmer Jenny Thompson as the only female athlete outside gymnastics to have won 10 medals. Remarkably, she returned to the Games four years later in Athens, winning yet another gold and silver at the age of 42.