China celebrates gold canoe doubles team

Aug. 23, 2008, 7:59 a.m. (ET)

BEIXIAOYING TOWN, China (AP) Meng Guanliang and Yang Wenjun bobbed in the water, their upside down canoe floating nearby. They wiped their eyes, ran fingers through their hair and when they peered at the scoreboard, the Chinese pair saw they had done it again: gold.

Meng and Yang have all the Olympic gold in China, at least when it comes to canoe racing.

They won the men's 500-meter canoe double (C-2) on Saturday in 1 minute, 41.025 seconds - and their fellow countrymen roared along with every perfect paddle toward the finish. The pair successfully defended their Athens triumph and now have the country's only two gold medals in the sport.

"Last time in Athens, we only had a very slow start, and we won the Olympic title in Athens purely out of good luck," Yang said. "This time it has been a really tough race, because our opponents are stronger than last time."

On dry land, the pair showed their appreciation for the thousands of Chinese fans who waved flags and rushed the railing to snap pictures. Meng and Yang clutched a flag on the medal pontoon, faced the fans across the lake and took their golden bows.

Then Meng made the celebration a touch more personal. His wife, Xu Feng Yue, joined him on the medal stand and Meng held his 15-month-old son in his arms as the national anthem played.

"Before the race, I knew my son would come here," Meng said. "In that way, his arrival here would boost my confidence."

Meng and Yang weren't the only repeat winners from Athens.

The Hungarian pair of Katalin Kovacs and Natasa Janic won the gold medal in women's 500-meter kayak double (K-2) in 1:41.308. The two-time world champions hugged on the dock in a scene that has become familiar after this speed race.

The big upset of the final day of medal races at Shunyi Rowing-Canoeing Park came in the men's 500-meter K-2.

The German pair of Ronald Rauhe and Tim Wieskotter were the defending gold medalists and have been the world champions since 2001. This time, they sat in their kayaks stunned and with their heads down.

Saul Craviotto and Carlos Perez of Spain won in 1:28.736, pumping their fists and yelling in celebration as they crossed the line.

"We are frightfully disappointed and we never want to feel like this again," Wieskotter said.

Rauhe was a bit more diplomatic.

"It's been eight years at the top. It wasn't going to last forever," he said. "How can you not be happy with an Olympic silver? But not getting gold does hurt."

At least they made it to the medal stand in one piece. Other kayakers and canoeists continued to fall ill in the heat after the grueling races.

After the 500 C-1, bronze medalist Ukrainian Iurii Cheban lay on the dock as medical personnel poured water on him. When he tried to stand, he crumbled to the ground, and needed two people to help him get back up.

Silver medalist David Cal of Spain also felt dizzy after the race, but said that was not unusual considering the athletes try to work as hard as they can on the water.

"It's typical, normal," he said.

He said he did feel rushed to get to the medal ceremony.

"I was not feeling well," he said.

Cal accepted his silver medal on the podium, stepped off and threw up on the pontoon.

Germany's Thomasz Wylenzek felt well enough to receive his bronze medal in the 500 K-2, a day after he was treated for dehydration at a hospital. He missed Saturday's medal ceremony for 1,000 C-2.

In other races:

- In the men's 500 K-1, Ken Wallace of Australia won gold in 1:37.252. Canadian Adam van Koeverden of Canada took silver in 1:37.630. Britain's Tim Brabants has a bronze medal to go along with the gold he won in the 1,000-meter K-1 race a day earlier.

- In the men's 500 C-1, Russian Maxim Opalev won the gold medal in 1:47.140, giving him his third medal in the last three Olympics and first gold.

- In the women's 500 K-1, Inna Osypenko-Radomska of Ukraine won in 1:50.673. Josefa Idem of Italy was right behind with the silver medal in 1:50.677. Germany's Katrin Wagner-Augustin won bronze in 1:51.022.

- In the men's 500 K-2, Raman Piatrushenka and Vadzim Makhneu of Belarus took bronze in 1:30.005.

- In the men's 500 C-2, Sergey Ulegin and Alexander Kostoglod of Russia won silver in 1:41.282. Wylenzek and Christian Gille took bronze in 1:41.964.

- In the women's 500 K-2, Beata Mikolajczyk and Aneta Konieczna of Poland took silver in 1:42.092. The French tandem of Marie Delattre and Anne-Laure Viard were the bronze medalists in 1:42.128.


Associated Press Writer Melissa Trujillo contributed to this story.