Meet the Fraker
In C-1, 19-year-old upstart Benn Fraker showed the world that there is, indeed, new talent in the U.S slalom pool. Black fingernails and all, Fraker advanced to the finals in Tuesday’s semi-finals run with a time of 92.27, and only one of three out of 12 clean runs on the course. Though 3:38 off Michal Martikan’s winning run of 88:92, it was enough to secure Fraker the final finals slot.
Running first in the finals, he bettered his score by two seconds despite the only flip of the day below a drop known as Stir Fry. But executing perhaps the fastest C-1 roll ever seen in Olympic competition, he nary lost a beat, or second. In the end, the future of American C-1 paddling ended up in sixth place, not bad for his first-ever Olympic showing, with Slovakia’s Martikan taking the gold, Great Britain’s David Florence the silver and Australia’s Robin Bell the bronze.
“This is my first Olympics, so now I have a foundation to build on” says Fraker. “It feels pretty good making the finals.”
Martikan added another gold to the one he won at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, paddling in a class of his own throughout the competition, using his composure, fluid technique and sheer strength on the difficult Shunyi course to post the two fastest times in the semi-final and final to secure victory despite a two-second time penalty on each of those runs.
“Winning the Olympic Gold medal still feels very special. It is a special Olympic feeling,” said the 29 year old Slovakian, who had to settle for silver medals behind Frenchman Tony Estanguet in 2000 and 2004.
Martikan was quick to label the 30 million Euro Shunyi course as the most difficult in the world, and the toughest artificial course he has paddled on, but said the gates set up for the two days of competition had been relatively easy. “The water is always changing, which makes it very hard to race on,” he said.
Had it not been for Florence’s elbow brushing gate three in
the semi-finals, the 25 year would have won the gold medal on his Olympic debut. To beer-addled fans, Australia’s Robin Bell secured the bonze medal after a fast clear run in the final that saw him leapfrog from fifth after the semi-final, to a place on the podium.
“Winning a medal is the cream of our sport,” said a delighted Bell afterwards. “It feels brilliant to have one hanging around my neck.”
In the final the challenge from the Czech Republic’s Stanislav Jezek, who was second going into the final, imploded when he touched two gates, while Poland’s Krzysztof Bieryt limped home last in the final after making a mess of the upstream gate three and then, when he was trying to make up for lost time, he missed gate fifteen, and was forced to return to the gate to avoid the ignominy of a fifty second penalty.
Spaniard Ander Elosegui was also denied a place on the podium by momentary lapses in concentration as he touched gates in both the semi-final and final.
In the semi-finals, two of the sports giants crashed out of contention in the charged atmosphere of the packed Shunyi white water stadium. Germany’s Jan Benzien, who had to depose world number two Nico Bettge to earn the right to race the C1 for Germany at the Games, was caught by the vicious “Dragons Mouth” hole below gate five, and lost three decisive seconds as he battled to extricate himself from the turbulent water.
Then, the depending champion Tony Estanguet of France became the most dramatic casualty when a solitary touch on a gate resulted in two seconds being added to his time that saw him slide out of the top eight qualification cut for the final.
RESULTS OF FINAL OF OLYMPIC SLALOM MENS C1
1.Michal Martikan SVK 176.65
2.David Florence GBR 178.61
3.Robin Bell AUS 180.59
4.Ander Elosegui ESP
5.Stanislav Jezek CZE 182.29
6.Benn Fraker USA 183.14
7.Christos Tsakmakis GRE 186.67
8.Krzysztof Bieryt POL 200.21
1.Michal Martikan SVK 88.92
2.Stanislav Jezek CZE 89.85
3.Krzysztof Bieryt POL 90.08
4.David Florence GBR 90.46
5.Robin Bell AUS 91.16
6.Christos Tsakmakis GRE 92.18
7.Ander Elosegui ESP 92.19
8.Benn Fraker USA 92.27
Men’s K1 Update!
Germany’s Grimm Takes K1 Gold, Toga Gets Country’s First-ever Medal
They’re having a toga party in Toga.
In Men’s K-1, German Alexander Grimm, 21, blitzed the challenging whitewater course at the Shunyi Olympic Canoeing Park on his final run to snatch he gold medal away from Frenchman Fabien Lefevre, while the surprise of the day saw Togo’s Benjamin Boukpeti pocket the country’s first-ever Olympic medal.
Grimm clocked a staggering clear run of 84.39 seconds, at least two secondsfaster than any other athletes has been able to cover the 280 etres of hurning white water, to leapfrog from his semi-final fourth place to the top of the leaderboard, and then anxiously watched as as Lefevre, Australian Warwick Draper and finally Boukpeti failed to match his Herculean effort.
“I had such a good feeling today. I was feeling strong, and it helped me to fly above the water,” said Grimm.
His performance was best summed up by Lefevre, who was quick to concede that the best man had won the gold medal. “To win Olympic gold you need that special edge, that magic, some spice,” said Lefevre. “I didn’t have it but Alexander (Grimm) had it. he was flying above the waves, while I felt I was fighting the waves.”
Grimm’s medal crowns a meteoric rise to fame. The athlete from Augsburg, the home of the first ever Olympic slalom competition, dramatically beat established German K1 star Stefan Pfannmöeller in the race for the German K1 berth, after announcing his international presence by winning the World Cup on his home course at Augsburg in 2007.
The bronze medal for little known Boukpeti is a fairytale. The son of a
French father and Togolese mother, the Toulouse based athlete has been
training with the South African squad’s coach Jean Jerome Perrin, and earned Togo’s first ever Olympic medal.
Boukpeti is a Frenchman in all but nationality, and has only once visited the nation that he represents, and said that he was looking forward to extending his competition with the Frenchmen whose team he had been unable to make, forcing him to turn to his mother’s homeland to keep his slalom alive.
“I just did my best!” beamed Boukpeti, who promptly broke his paddles
across the front deck of his kayak when he realised that he had won a medal. Boukpeti was the fastest man in the semi-final and started the final with the top seeding, and with the French speaking crowd bellowing support for him.
In the heat of the final both Robert Bouten of the Netherlands and Italian Daniele Molmenti missed gates, Bouten at 15 and Molmenti, when his challenge disintegrated in the final three gates of the final.
Athens 2004 Silver Medallist Campbell Walsh crashed out of contention in the semi-finals with a disastrous first thirty seconds. After making a meal of the tricky upstream gates two and three, and the downstream gates that follow immediately after that, me missed gate six and blew his medal chances as he turned to renegotiate the gate.
The semi-finals saw the demise of Slovakian Peter Kauzer, who touched two gates, each costing two-second penalties that ruled him out of contention for the final after leading the standing going into the semi-final.
RESULTS MENS SLALOM K1 FINAL
1.Alexander Grimm GER 171.70
2.Fabien Lefevre FRA 173.30
3.Benjamin Boukpeti TOG 173.45
4.Eoin Rheinisch IRL 176.91
5.Warwick Draper AUS 176.98
6.David Ford USA 178.75
7.Helmut Oblinger AUT 178.83
8.Dariusz Popiela POL 179.68