The king of canoe slalom, Tony Estanguet, a three-time Olympic gold medalist in canoe single (C1) slalom, retired after the London Games. His departure left Michal Martikan as the heavy favorite to win in Rio. Martikan, the 2012 London bronze medalist, failed to make Slovakia’s Olympic team, and now the C1 gold medal is anyone’s for the taking.
Fourteen athletes advanced to the semifinal from results of their heats on Sunday, but only the top 10 C1 athletes advanced to the final.
These athletes must navigate through 24 gates in this 242-meter long slalom course of rushing whitewater in the fastest time possible.
Men’s canoe single
A stacked field in C1 competed at Whitewater Stadium, with the top medal contenders showing some expected, but also unexpected, results.
Germany’s Sideris Tasiadis – who says “no risk, no fun” – took first in the C1 heats (92.23 seconds) and continued risking it all, winning the semifinal in 95.63 seconds.
France’s Denis Gargaud Chanut and Great Britain’s David Florence, who finished second and third respectively in their heats on Sunday, advanced to the final, but had slower times in the semifinal than in their heats.
Slovakia’s Matej Benus, a bronze medal favorite in Rio, showcased the fastest course time (90.78) on Sunday’s heats, but three two-second penalties pushed him back to sixth place. In the semifinal, however, he finished in 100.68, good enough time to advance him to the final.
Slovenia’s Benjamin Savsek finished a strong fourth overall in the semifinal in 98.70.
Spain’s Ander Elosegi had a good showing on Sunday’s heats and an even better one in the semifinals; his second-place time of 97.93 cruised him into the final.
American Casey Eichfeld, a three-time Olympian, finished 14th in the men’s C1 at the London Games and headed into the final 10th overall.
Eichfeld’s support for the top three men showed.
“I’m really, really excited for all the medalists and I’ll be gunning for them at the world cups, world championships and Olympics in four years,” Eichfeld said.