Canoe slalom: Estanguet beats old rival for gold
By Martyn Herman
WALTHAM CROSS, England (Reuters) - Frenchman Tony Estanguet afforded himself a wry smile when he heard the roars and saw the Slovakian flags waving before his surge to gold in the Olympic canoe slalom C1 final on Tuesday.
Slovakia's favorite son Michal Martikan had just sliced down the Lee Valley White Water course in 98.31 seconds, guiding his bright red canoe through the surging foam to take the lead.
Next to shoot the rapids was Estanguet, who like Martikan already had two Olympic gold medals to his name in the event during an intense rivalry that goes back more than 15 years.
Launching out of the starting pool, the 34-year-old from the foothills of the Pyrenees where he learned to paddle, Estanguet found the perfect balance of speed and precision to negotiate the 23 gates 1.25 seconds quicker than his old adversary.
Spinning through the last upstream gate before driving to the finish, Estanguet roared his delight when seeing his time - the pain of his Beijing flop consigned to history.
In the end they were divided by Germany's Sideris Tasiadis who snatched silver but it was the Martikan factor that had inspired Estanguet to take gold, as it has done throughout a career that has also brought him three world titles.
"He is a great champion and it's because of him that I work so hard in my training," Estanguet, who once described his sport as "one long family sporting vacation", told reporters, his chunky gold medal hanging from his neck.
"That's because I know that's exactly what he'll be doing. When he's on the starting list you know that you have to do something special to beat him. Continued...