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Fredriksson stages stylish farewell in kayak doubles

29 Aug 1960
Rome 1960, Canoe / Kayak, Sweden

Sweden's Gert Fredriksson, who competed at the top level over the course of more than two decades, is arguably the greatest canoeist of all time. He began competing in 1942, but the Second World War meant he didn't make his Olympic debut until 1948, by which time he was 28. He won two gold medals in London, then added a gold and a silver four years later in Helsinki and then two more golds in Melbourne in 1956.

By the time he arrived in Rome for his fourth Games he was 40, and keen for a golden Olympic swansong. But there was a significant problem – the programme of events had changed.

For the previous three Games, Fredriksson had competed in the kayak singles over 1,000m and 10,000m. But now the longer event had gone, so he decided to try his hand at something new – the kayak doubles.

First however, came the more familiar challenge of the 1,000m singles, which he had won in each of the previous three editions of the Games. This time, though, he finished nearly three seconds behind the winner, Denmark's Erik Hansen. At 20, Hansen was exactly half the age of Fredriksson, who eventually finished third. But he had, at least, maintained his phenomenal record of winning a medal in every Olympic race he entered.

In the doubles he teamed up with Sven-Olov Sjödelius, who was a mere 13 years younger than him. The pair clicked together from the start. They qualified through the opening rounds in calm, if unspectacular style, saving their energy for the final. And they needed every last ounce, as they found themselves in a fight to the finish with the Hungarian pair. They finally crossed the line less than 0.2 seconds ahead to clinch gold and ensure that Fredriksson's career finished on the highest of highs.

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