Hungary dedicates medals to late canoeing champion

Aug. 22, 2008, 8:14 a.m. (ET)

BEIXIAOYING TOWN, China (AP) The Hungarians wore the black armband all week to remember their friend. They added three more colors on the canoe/kayak flatwater course in honor of Gyorgy Kolonics: Olympic gold, silver and bronze.

Attila Vajda, Gyorgy Kozmann, Tamas Kiss and four more of their Olympic countrymen all stood on the podium Friday and dedicated the medals draped around their necks to Kolonics, a canoeing gold medalist at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics who died last month after collapsing in his canoe while training for the Beijing Games.

"I tried to compete to honor my former teammate and do the best I can to honor someone who is so great," Vajda said. "I know he is with us from heaven. He holds our hand and helps us mentally."

Vajda won the gold medal in men's 1,000-meter canoe singles (C-1) in 3 minutes, 50.467 seconds. Katalin Kovacs, Gabriella Timea Szabo, Danuta Kozak and Natasa Janic won silver in the women's 500-meter kayak four (K-4) in 1:32.971. Kozmann and Kiss took bronze in men's 1,000-meter canoe double (C-2) in 3:40.258.

Kolonics was never far from their thoughts.

"I concentrated on my race and tried to do what I can," Vajda said.

Kozmann said he "absolutely" wanted to dedicate the race to Kolonics.

In May, Kolonics and Kozmann won a silver medal in the 500-meter doubles at the European Championships in Milan, Italy. They were training for the 1,000-meter canoe double.

"It's been filled with ups and downs in the past week, but we recovered from the tragedy," Kozmann said.

Vajda enjoyed his step up on the podium stand after winning bronze four years ago in the Athens Games. He took a peek over his shoulder right after crossing the finish line - but no one was really close. Vajda thrust his fist into the air in celebration, splashed some water and bellowed toward the sideline.

"This is perfect," he said.

Vajda now has a gold accessory to complement the pierced left eyebrow and stud in his upper right ear. The world champion jumped on the podium with his arms extended like Rocky Balboa atop the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps. Vajda waved to the crowd and kissed his medal, one of the few signs of true jubilation at a course where the winners and the fans were mostly staid.

Germany and Belarus each won two gold medals at Shunyi Rowing-Canoeing Park and Britain won the other gold medal. The second day of finals in the canoe and kayak is Saturday.

Germany was the only crew that boasted a Playboy model. Nicole Reinhardt now has a gold medal to go with her spread this month in the German issue where she posed with nothing more than her strategically-placed paddle.

Reinhardt, Fanny Fischer, Katrin Wagner-Augustin and Conny Wassmuth won the women's 500 K-4 in 1:32.231 and defended their Olympic title.

Fischer and Wagner-Augustin were part of the gold medal foursome in Athens.

Reinhardt was one of four German Olympic athletes who posed for the September German issue of the magazine and each had their own cover.

"From spectator to Olympic medal-holder. It's amazing," Reinhardt said.

So was Belarus going back-to-back with their gold medals.

The brother tandem of Andrei and Aliaksandr Bahdanovich took gold in men's 1,000 C-2 in 3:36.365, storming from behind to edge Germany in a thrilling finish.

The Bahdanovich brothers were nearly 1 second behind with 250 meters to go, then furiously paddled their way to the front just before the finish.

The German pair of Christian Gille and Thomasz Wylenzek led almost the entire way until their canoe was edged by a nose, and the frantic finish took a toll on Wylenzek.

He fainted and was being treated for dehydration at a hospital.

Wylenzek was listed in stable condition Friday. He was given intravenous fluids, said International Canoe Federation spokesman Dave Macleod.

About 15 minutes later, Belarus won gold in men's 1,000 K-4. The foursome of Raman Piatrushenka, Aliaksei Abalmasau, Artur Litvinchuk and Vadzim Makhneu won in 2:55.714. Slovakia won silver in 2:46.593 and Germany took bronze in 2:56.676.

Britain's Tim Brabants is already pointing toward the 2012 games on his home water after he won the gold medal in men's 1,000 K-1 in 3:26.323. Brabants took the lead at about the halfway mark and surged ahead to add another medal to go with the bronze he in the 1,000 at the Sydney Games. Eirik Veraas Larsen of Norway won silver in 3:27.342. Australian Ken Wallace won bronze in 3:27.485

"London is definitely in the cards now," he said. "Don't be surprised to see me."

In the men's 1,000 K-2, Martin Hollstein and Andreas Ihle of Germany won gold in 3:11.809. Kim Wraae Knudsen and Rene Holten Poulsen of Denmark won the silver medal in 3:13.580. The Italian crew of Andrea Facchin and Antonio Scaduto were the bronze medalists in 3:14.750.