TOKYO (Reuters) – Germany’s Ricarda Funk ended Australian Jessica Fox’s bid to win two canoeing golds at the Tokyo Olympics by taking the women’s kayak slalom title on Tuesday in a technically accomplished run down a challenging white water course.
It was Funk’s first major title since winning the European championship in 2018 and the first time a German paddler has won the women’s kayak slalom event since Barcelona in 1992.
Funk watched as her friend and world No.1 Fox powered out from the start.
“At the moment I wasn’t thinking anything, I was already over the moon that I had won a medal,” Funk told reporters after receiving her gold medal.
Fox earned an early two-second penalty from a gate pole strike and a second hit further down the course meant the 2018 world champion had to settle for a second successive Olympic bronze in the event.
“It was one too many,” Fox said sitting next to Funk.
The 27-year-old Australian is trained by her French mother, Myriam, a two-time kayak world champion and Olympic bronze medallist in 1996. She will get another shot at Olympic gold this week when she competes in the first ever Olympic women’s canoe slalom as part of a gender equality push by the sport and the International Olympic Committee.
“We are as equal as the men and this is a great achievement, and Jess has played a big role in this equality game,” said Funk.
Veteran Spanish kayaker and 2016 Olympic champion Maialen Chourraut took the silver in her fourth consecutive Olympics.
The 38-year-old Chourraut, who is known for her punishing race preparation and even trained when she was eight months pregnant, became the oldest paddler to win a slalom medal.
Chourraut is the only Spanish woman to have won Olympic medals in canoeing after she followed up her 2012 bronze with gold and silver in the next two Games.
Blustery weather that caused the gate poles to sway made the already difficult Tokyo course more challenging on Tuesday.
Britain’s Kimberley Woods was among those who missed gates in the final, earning a 50-second penalty that ended her chance of winning a medal. She broke down in tears in her pink Union Jack kayak after her run.
“I am just sad I could not make everyone proud and bring home a medal,” she said in a statement.
Paddlers will take to the slalom course again on Wednesday for the men’s kayak and women’s canoe heats.
(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Pritha Sarkar)