Success for Slovakia’s Skantar cousins and Spain’s Chourraut at the Whitewater Arena
Slovakian cousins Ladislav Skantar and Peter Skantar took gold in the men's canoe doubles (C2) to maintain their country’s fine tradition in the event. Athletes from Slovakia have now won the men’s C2 at four of the last five editions of the Games.
The pair gracefully negotiated the rapids under a bright sun in Deodoro's Whitewater Arena in a time of 101.58, finishing less than half a second faster than silver medallists Richard Hounslow and David Florence of Great Britain, who clocked 102.01 seconds. Top-ranked Gauthier Klauss and Matthieu Peche of France took bronze in 103.24 seconds.
“We started when we were eight years old,” recalled Ladislav after the final. “From the beginning it was quite clear that we would do double canoeing. The first person who got us to start was actually my father.
“We come from a very small village and there were actually only two possibilities: to play football or go for double canoeing. We decided to go for this one and our father was always supportive.”
Meanwhile Britain’s silver medallist pair were both in reflective mood. "I am still loving canoeing,” said Florence, who finished second on the podium for the second Games running. “I'm not about to retire and I love training. I love the sport and obviously it (the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games) is a long, long way away at the minute and it's a massive challenge just to get to any Olympics. I am very happy to compete. I spent a lot of time here in Rio de Janeiro and I am really proud of the result I achieved and the medal I am taking home."
Hounslow added: "It would have been great for one or both of those silvers to have been gold but I was so close both times to gold medals and so close to nothing. So I am really proud of my achievements and really proud of winning two silver medals."
Perseverance pays off for Chourraut in women’s K1
In the women’s K1, Spain’s Maialen Chourraut, a bronze medallist at London 2012, took the gold, having taken time out in between to have a child. She admitted that topping the podium had exceeded her expectations. "I came to the Olympics to reach the final. We had first the heats and then the semi-final and I really felt nothing, I just focused and I carried on. It's blurred in my mind so I will really need to see the video tape as I don't remember."
"When I started paddling my coach, who is my husband now, taught our small team the importance of perseverance. I think that this is the key," she added.
Her thoughts soon turned to her young daughter, Ane. “I hope she is sleeping right now (but) I don't know if she is or not, I don't know if she is hungry or not so I really want to go and check if she is alright.”
Silver went to Luuka Jones of New Zealand, who jumped into water in delight when she saw that she had finished second, and later said that the medal would give a huge boost to her sport back home.
“It's huge,” she enthused. “I guess it's put canoe slalom in the spotlight. It's not one of New Zealand's key sports (but) we now have our own whitewater course in Auckland and the young guys coming through in our sport will hopefully get a lot more support. It's hopefully going to be a game-changer."
And there was delight too for bronze medallist Jessica Fox, a graduate of the Youth Olympic Games, where she had taken gold.
“I’m very happy to win another medal and very happy to share the podium again with Maialen and to see her do a phenomenal run and to see Luuka as well. We're neighbours, so for 'team Oceania' it's very cool to see two from our continent on the podium.”