Perseverance is key for Chourraut as Spain collects first K1 gold

RIO DE JANEIRO - Maialen CHOURRAUT (ESP) blew away the rest of the women's K1 field at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to win the first canoe slalom gold medal for Spain on Thursday, 20 years and three Olympics after first taking up the sport.

CHOURRAUT showed all of her experience and stamina to clock a time more than three seconds quicker than Luuka JONES (NZL) in silver and the event favourite Jessica FOX (AUS) in bronze at the Whitewater Stadium.

"I have been working every day, taking it step-by-step to get to this point of winning the Olympic gold medal," the 33-year-old said before paying tribute to her coach and husband, Xabier EXTANIZ (ESP). "When I started paddling, my coach, who is my husband now, taught our small team the importance of perseverance. I think that this is the key."

After finishing 16th on her Games debut at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and third at the London 2012 Olympic Games, CHOURRAUT took a maternity break from the sport. She continued paddling until she was eight months pregnant with her daughter, Ane, believing the later she stopped, the easier it would be to regain her form.

"For me this is what I've been looking for since a long time ago. For my family it is a reward for all the nerves and emotion they have felt," CHOURRAUT said.

JONES was the only other paddler to post a clear final run at the Whitewater Stadium on Thursday as she won New Zealand's first medal in the sport. The 27-year-old was followed on to the podium by world No.1 FOX, who had to settle for bronze after the late award of a two-second penalty for clipping a gate.

"I think I went through all of the emotions. I finished my run happy and then I got a late penalty added on and had to wait to see if I was on the podium," said FOX, the London 2012 silver medallist. "That's why canoe slalom is so exciting because anything can happen on the day."

In the men's C2 final on Thursday, Slovakia won the eighth Olympic Summer Games gold medal in its history - all in canoe slalom - as cousins Ladislav SKANTAR and Peter SKANTAR (SVK) raced home ahead of London 2012 silver medallists David FLORENCE (GBR) and Richard HOUNSLOW (GBR), with French pair Gauthier KLAUSS (FRA) and Matthieu PECHE (FRA) in bronze.

It was Slovakia's fourth C2 gold in the past five Games, following the three won by brothers Pavol and Peter HOCHSCHORNER (SVK) from 2000 to 2008. "We are very happy because we have kind of substituted the brothers and that's why the gold was very high to reach for us," Peter SKANTAR said.

On Wednesday in the canoe slalom competition, Joseph CLARKE (GBR) won the men's K1 ahead of Peter KAUZER (SLO) in silver and Jiri PRSKAVEC (CZE) in bronze to claim Great Britain's first individual gold medal in the sport. In the men's C1 on Tuesday, Denis GARGAUD CHANUT (FRA) finally inherited the mantle of French canoe slalom great Tony ESTANGUET as he won France's seventh Olympic Games gold medal in canoe slalom.

The 2011 world champion held off the challenge of Matej BENUS (SVK) and Takuya HANEDA (JPN) before accepting the gold medal from presenter ESTANGUET, who had edged out GARGAUD CHANUT in national team qualifying for Beijing 2008 and London 2012, where he won the last of his three C1 golds.

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