Germany’s Ricarda Funk buried the heartbreak of missing selection for the Rio Olympics with an error-free run to win gold in the women’s kayak slalom at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday.
Spain’s Maialen Chourraut took the silver medal, making her the oldest athlete to win a women’s Olympic medal, while pre-event favourite Jessica Fox posted the fastest time of the day, but also picked up four seconds in penalties to relegate her to bronze, the same results as Rio in 2016.
Funk was the third last athlete on the course, and already knew she had a medal before the final two paddlers took to the course. She was so excited to make the podium she didn’t even watch the final two runs.
Australia’s Jessica Fox went into the final as the number one ranked paddler, and had enhanced her standing with outstanding heat and semi-final performances.
But her run in the final was mistake-ridden, with an early touch on gate four and another touch at the finish giving her four seconds in penalties. Her raw time was 102.73, but the penalties put her 1.23 seconds behind Funk.
“I’m feeling all the emotions I think,” Fox said.“Relief to be on the podium, a bit of disappointment obviously to not put down the dream run, but at the same time, to make it on to the podium just with a mistake at the finish line. All the emotions, there is a lot to learn from today.“The mistake at the finish was just one too many unfortunately, and it just knocked me out of the gold medal, but to be on the podium is something I’m really proud of.”
Mistakes by two other paddlers also proved costly in the hunt for medals. Italy’s Stefanie Horn robbed herself of a silver medal with a two-second penalty, while Poland’s Klaudia Zwolinska dropped from third to fifth with four seconds in penalties.
From the U.S., American Evy Leibfarth, The 17-year-old phenom who won the junior world title earlier this year, failed to qualify for the top 10 finalists spot.
- FUNK Ricarda (GER) 105.50 (0 seconds in penalties)
- CHOURRAUT Maialen (ESP) 106.63 (0)
- FOX Jessica (AUS) 106.73 (4)
Overall Slalom Medal Count
An Olympic First: Women’s C-1
Australia’s Jessica Fox overcame the most nerves she has ever experienced in her athletic career to win the first ever women’s canoe slalom Olympic gold medal in Tokyo on Thursday.
Fox had hopes of winning both the women’s kayak and canoe gold in Japan, and after settling for bronze in the kayak on Tuesday, had to endure 48 hours of stress and worry before triumphing in style on Thursday.
Fox was the last paddler on the course, with Great Britain’s Mallory Franklin sitting at the finish line in the gold medal position with a time of 108.68.
“I’ve definitely felt that load and the pressure, and there was a lot of relief at the finish line today,” Fox said.
“I’ve probably never been as nervous as I was today. Twenty minutes before my race, even though I felt good, and felt calm, I had a small lolly and I instantly went and threw up. That has never happened to me before, and I think it showed how full-on it was today.
“I’m just so proud that I was able to come around and do the run that I wanted to.”
Fox finished her run error-free and in 105.04, a time that would have placed her sixth in the men’s canoe final earlier in the week. The time was also faster than the winning time in the women’s kayak final on Tuesday. Kayak times are almost always faster than canoe.
Fox now has four Olympic medals – bronze in the kayak from this week and Rio in 2016, silver in the kayak in London, and Thursday’s gold. No other female paddler has won more than three individual Olympic medals, and Fox becomes the first athlete to win two individual medals at a single Games.
Franklin said she was honoured to win the first Olympic silver medal in women’s canoe, and that waiting on the finish line for the remaining paddlers to finish had been almost unbearable.
“I feel massively relieved, it’s so stressful the whole environment,” Franklin said.“It’s a really stressful situation to be sitting there and watching some really good paddlers come through and not know what was going to happen.“The number of silver medals I have behind her is pretty ridiculous. She did an amazing run, to be able to bounce back and produce something like that, she’s an amazing paddler and of course I don’t mind coming second to her, I did my best, I did a really good run, and she was better than that.”
Photos courtesy Bence Vekassy/ICF
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