Slovakia wins gold in kayak, double canoe events
BEIXIAOYING TOWN, China (AP) In the canoe or the covered kayak, this was a Slovakian Slalom Sweep.
Fraternal twins Pavol and Peter Hochschorner on Friday won their third straight gold medal in three straight Olympics in double canoe slalom, becoming the first paddlers to reach the top of any whitewater podium three times.
They had some help adding to the country's medal haul.
Slovakia's Elena Kaliska dazzled and dominated on two flawless runs and won gold in women's single kayak slalom by nearly 15 seconds, defending her top finish at Athens in 2004.
"We made all the nation happy," Kaliska said though a translator. "All across, fans are part of the success."
Kaliska led entering the finals and caught a break when two top contenders had shaky rides down the challenging rapids. Not that Kaliska really needed one. She was the only kayaker who navigated the course perfectly, easily paddling through the 21 gates that must have looked as wide as NFL goalposts.
Her combined time of 192.64 seconds was 14.3 seconds ahead of silver. Jacqueline Lawrence of Australia took that medal in 206.94. Violetta Oblinger Peters of Austria won bronze in 214.77. Her winning margin is almost unheard of in a sport where the outcome is usually decided by a couple of seconds.
Kaliska punched her fist in the air in the finishing pool and blew a kiss to the cheering crowd.
"I didn't look at the other races before I started," Kaliska said. "I was sure I had to run with no mistakes."
The Hochschorner brothers had 4 penalty seconds, but it didn't stop them from the triple-double.
The brothers were in second place after the semifinal, but posted the best combined time of 190.82 seconds to earn another set of whitewater medals to add to their collection from the Sydney Games and Athens.
"I think it's nice, but it's the same," Pavol Hochschorner said.
The Czech Republic's Jaroslav Volf and Ondrej Stepanek took the silver medal, finishing 2.07 seconds behind the brothers. Russia's Mikhail Kuznetsov and Dmitry Larionov won the bronze in 197.37.
The Russians raised their oars over their head and pumped their fists, then floated around the finishing pool and gazed at the scoreboard to see they were the leaders - temporarily.
Volf and Stepanek went next, and then the brothers took on the unrelenting waves.
The German team of Michel Felix and Sebastian Piersig led after the semifinal and went last, but they could not recover once their canoe capsized and finished sixth.
"It was bad luck for them, but we were happy," said Peter Hochschorner.
When asked if there would be a fourth gold medal, Pavol Hochschorner leaned into the microphone with a big smile and said, "Of course."
They had a better performance than the top women.
The Czech Republic's Stepanka Hilgertova, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, capsized in her kayak and was ninth. Germany's Jennifer Bongardt, who shares the world No. 1 ranking with Hilgertova, missed two gates and failed to qualify for the final.
This was the last of five days of slalom events before it shifts next week across Shunyi Rowing-Canoeing Park to the flatwater course.