Grimm wins gold in kayak; Togo gets first medal

Aug. 12, 2008, 10:05 a.m. (ET)

BEIXIAOYING TOWN, China (AP) Alexander Grimm of Germany won the gold medal Tuesday in single kayak slalom, using a pair of clean, fast runs, and an athlete from Togo took the bronze to win that country's first medal ever in a Summer Olympics.

Grimm, ranked No. 3 in the world, won the gold medal in a combined time of 171.70 using a pair of clean, fast runs.

He ducked and weaved around the gates. Every flawless run - without even the tip of the paddle touching the gate - earned a "wonderful!" or two giant thumbs up on the scoreboard.

"I've got a massive party ahead of me," he said.

Fabien Lefevre of France won the silver.

Benjamin Boukpeti of Togo slammed his paddle in the frothy water to celebrate his country's first medal in the Summer Olympics.

The crowd wildly cheered on Boukpeti as he neared the end of the whitewater course. He slapped hands with fans from his kayak, and his paddle snapped in half, although he hardly seemed to care.

"I really don't know yet what this quite represents," Boukpeti said though a translator.

Boukpeti kissed his fists before he thrust them into the air on the medal stand and hopped up and down several times before the medal was placed around his neck, his parents watching nearby.

"I tried to give people some entertainment," he said. "I tried to make them vibrate a little."

Boukpeti was the last competitor to negotiate his one-man kayak through the strategically placed gates, and the crowd was behind him from the start. His ride was clean and his combined time was 173.45 seconds.

He hugged and kissed his French mother and Togolese father after he crossed the finish line and said, "They showed me it was possible."

Boukpeti speaks French and lives in Toulouse, France. He was born in France and only visited Togo, in West Africa, once as a young boy. He developed through a program in France, but shoulder injuries ended his career there. The 27-year-old represented Togo when he competed in the 2004 Athens Games.

Michal Martikan of Slovakia won the gold medal in single canoe slalom, his first since Atlanta.

Martikan won silver in Sydney and Athens, finishing second both times behind France's Tony Estanguet. Estanguet finished a surprising ninth in his first run on the whitewater course and did not qualify for the finals.

David Florence of Britain won silver and Australia's Robin Bell took home bronze.

Martikan was only 17 when he won the gold medal in 1996 in Atlanta. He is the No. 1 ranked canoeist by the International Canoe Federation and his combined time of 176.65 seconds was nearly 2 seconds better than Florence's time.

Estanguet, the French flag-bearer at the opening ceremony, couldn't believe he wouldn't add another gold medal to his collection.

"It was a very bad race for me," he said. "It's very difficult for me to explain why I was out."

Estanguet was an outspoken critic of the Chinese government and said earlier this year "the situation in China is certainly intolerable" and that it was "unbearable for us sports people."

He said after his run that nothing has changed his opinion of the country.

"No, but these games can be a great games," he said. "China has been very motivated to welcome these Olympic Games."