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Culture

German Kayakers Capture Double Gold

German kayaker Birgit Fischer had to settle for silver instead of a ninth Olympic gold, but it was gold all the way in the men's single and pairs events.

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Rauhe and Wieskötter earned one of two golds on Saturday

Andreas Dittmer punched the air with his fist, a teary-eyed Ronald Rauhe sank into the arms of his team-mate Tim Wieskötter: the golden storm whipped up by the German canoers and kayakers on Friday continued on Saturday at the Schinias flatwater course. Adding to the first-place euphoria was the commendable performance by German legend Birgit Fischer. After capturing gold on Friday, she and team-mate Carolin Leonhardt followed up with a silver-medal in the women's pairs event.

With a total of four gold and three silver medals in the 12 final races, the Germans have once again proved themselves to be the strongest flatwater racing nation, even ahead of Hungary, which took three gold, one silver and two bronze medals.

"It's a phenomenal result, all of our expectations have been met. Other clubs could take an example from this," said the German Kayaking Association President Ulrich Feldhoff, who relinquishes his post in April 2005. "We're number one in the canoeing world, and number one in the German Olympic team -- we can't do any more than that. The athletes have done everything right here. We upped our medal count compared with Sydney, and we're taking home even more gold."

Something to prove

Andreas Dittmer

Andreas Dittmer of Germany

Andreas Dittmer (photo) felt he had something to prove as he entered the singles 500-meter race on Saturday after coming a disappointing second behind David Cal of Spain in the 1,000-meter final the day before.

"There was a certain frustration there," said Dittmer, whose forte is the longer distance. "I wanted to put everything into it as it could be my last Olympic race."

Dittmer got his revenge on Cal, making his usual strong finish to claim his first gold in the 500-meter event.

13th final, 12th medal

Birgit Fischer im Vierer-Kajak mit Team-Kolleginnen Olympia 2004 Athen

Birgit Fischer has 12 Olympic medals

A short while later, Germany's grand dame of canoeing, Birgit Fischer, 42, (photo) claimed her 12th medal in her 13th Olympic final. She failed in her bid to win a record-equalling ninth Olympic gold medal when world champions Hungary pulled past to win the women's 500-meter pairs final. But with her silver bringing her total medal count to 8 gold, 4 silver, Fischer is now in fifth place on the list of most successful Olympians behind Larissa Latynina (9/5/4), Paavo Nurmi (9/3/0), Mark Spitz (9/1/1) and Carl Lewis (9/1/0).

Fischer was relaxed after missing her record-equalizing opportunity. "I'm not thinking about the statistics when I'm at the start line," she said.

After the Hungarians' victory, Fischer and Leonhardt paddled over to Natasa Janics and Katalin Kovacs to exchange congratulatory kisses. Fischer is fuelling speculation over whether or not Athens is her last Olympic Games. "I don't want to scare anybody, but first, I'm just going to continue next year."

The president of her association has nothing against her plans. "This woman is simply phenomenal," Feldhoff said. "You only see an athlete like this once ever 50 or 100 years."

Pairs gold

After winning three world championships, the tandem Ronny Rauhe and Tim Wieskötter continued their series of successes in front of an ecstatic crowd of 12,000 spectators. In the 500-meter pairs kayak final, the due pulled out an early lead and took an easy win. After crossing the finish line, the men paddled an extra round for their fans in the stands.

"This feeling is indescribable," said Rauhe. "I can barely speak," he added as he fought to hold back tears.