None of the other seven paddlers could match Kozak’s move at the halfway mark as she pulled away and won by a margin of almost two seconds. At the line there were five boats in contention for the minor medals as Emma Jorgensen of Denmark, at 20 the youngest finalist, sneaked through for silver ahead of K1 200m champion Lisa Carrington of New Zealand.
Kozak admitted that sickness in the days leading up to the race had concerned her, but said: “I was worried, but I’m mentally strong. A few days ago I was ill but I’ve got better and better. I’m really happy at how things have turned out.”
Kozak, who also took gold in the women’s K2 500m, is the second athlete to claim consecutive titles in the women’s kayak single 500m after Lyudmila Pinayeva-Khvedosyuk (URS), who took the gold medals in 1964 and 1968. She is the third woman to collect two Olympic gold medals in this event after Pinayeva-Khvedosyuk and Birgil Fischer (GDR/GER), who triumphed in 1980 and 1992.
Cheban makes splash to win gold
There was plenty of other action on a thrilling day on the water. London 2012 Olympic Games champion Yuriy Cheban (UKR) defended his men’s canoe single (C1) 200m title in dramatic style, launching himself at the line in lane eight to win 0.2 seconds ahead of Valentin Demyanenko (AZE).
Cheban was the last man into the final, squeezing in with the last qualifying spot after finishing third in his semi-final. His launch for the finish catapulted him into the water but did not dampen his joy at the title. Isaquias Queiroz Dos Santos (BRA) capsized in similar fashion at the finish but the push was enough to win him a bronze medal to add to his silver in the C1 1000m earlier this week.
On winning his second successive gold medal in this boat class, Cheban said: “Maybe the first time I won the medal it was more emotional, but this time I knew what I was preparing for. I expected a tough race and I got one. This race was much, much harder than the previous one.”
On capsizing at the end, he added: “At the finish line every athlete wants to put the nose of the boat as far as possible to maximise the chance of being first. My body weight got to the back of the boat and I capsized. It was a golden trick.”
German pair claim glory
In the men’s kayak double 1000m, Germany’s Max Rendschmidt and Marcus Gross made good on the promise of yesterday’s heats by getting out early to a sizable lead and maintaining their advantage to claim the gold medal.
Behind them the boats from Australia, Portugal and Serbia were scrapping it out for second and although the battle for the minor medals began to reel in the Germans towards the end, Rendschmidt and Gross had done enough. They took Germany’s second canoe sprint gold of the Games, ahead of Serbia’s Marko Tomicevic and Milenko Zoric and Australians Ken Wallace and Lachlan Tame.
Rendschmidt described it as “the best race we have produced,” while Gross said: “Everything has to be right to win the gold medal. We were a little bit short of power in the end but the first 800m was so good we won the race thanks to that sector. Winning is like a weight falling off our shoulders.”
Sprint finish in men’s K2 200m
The men’s K2 200m was another close race with the first seven boats finishing just 0.6 seconds apart. Spain’s Saul Craviotto won his second Olympic title, following up a win in the K2 500m at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. This time he partnered with countryman Cristian Toro.
On winning another Olympic medal to add to his gold and silver from two previous Games, Craviotto said: “I never dreamed I could have three medals, and two of them golds.” Toro added: “I don’t have words to describe how I’m feeling. Maybe in a few days I’ll realise what happened. All my life I’ve dreamed of winning an Olympic gold medal.”
British pair Liam Heath and Jon Schofield improved on their London 2012 bronze to take silver, finishing 0.014 seconds in front of Aurimas Lankas and Edvinas Ramanauskas of Lithuania.