- 25 Oct 1968
- Mexico 1968
Kayaker Pfeffer defies the odds to claim Olympic silver
Athletes train for years to do their best at the Olympic Games. They aim to arrive in the best physical shape, with their tactics clear and their preparation perfect. But sometimes, fate will still trip them up.
Even the best in the world, some of the best in history, can be brought down by the unexpected. A stumble in a track race, a fall in gymnastics, a moment's distraction for an archer. In the case of the Hungarian canoeist Anna Pfeffer, it was an accident that surprised everyone, but somehow ended up pushing her to her greatest success.
Pfeffer was taking part in the women's 500m singles kayak final. Pfeffer was 23 years old, taking part in her first Olympics, and pushing hard as the athletes reached the halfway mark. And then, dramatically, her craft turned over. Pfeffer has spun and in need of rescue. Am emergency boat rushed to the scene and dragged her out of the water. As she was being taken from the water, Lyudmila Pinayeva was taking gold.
Pfeffer was shaken but remained determined and resolute. She was due to take part in the doubles event in just an hour and a half's time and decided that, despite her accident, she would press on with her partner Katalin Rozsnyói.
Perhaps it was the resolve that came from that spin; perhaps the adrenaline was flowing even more than normal, but the Hungarian pair performed above expectations. Ahead, Germany were assured of gold but the battle for the medals was tight between pairs from the Soviet Union, Romania – and Pfeffer and Rozsnyói in the Hungarian boat. The Romanians fell away slightly, but the Hungarian and Soviet canoes crossed the line in a blur, separated by just 0.01secs. A wafter-thin margin – but it went the way of Pfeffer and Rozsnyói. A rescue to start the afternoon – an Olympic silver medal to finish it. Quite a day for Anna Pfeffer.