Germany ended a challenging week with a hard-earned gold medal in the men’s K4 500 to bring down the curtain on the incredible career of six-time Olympian Ronald Rauhe, who will race home now to fulfil a promise to his son that he will be by his side at his first day at school.

The German’s went into the race with the pressure of being the pre-event favourites, having won every world championship over the distance since the Rio Olympics.

They also went to the start line in the knowledge their country was yet to win a gold medal in the canoe sprint programme in Tokyo.

An incredible duel with Spain unfolded over the full 500 metres, before the German quartet of Rauhe, Max Rendschmidt, Tom Liebscher and Max Lemke, who was just four-years-old when Rauhe competed at his first Olympics, kicked ahead in the final 100 metres to take gold.

It’s a third gold medal for Rendschmidt and a second gold for Leibscher, while it gave Rauhe a second Olympic gold and a fifth overall medal in a career that began in Sydney in 2000.

“It’s hard for me to describe my emotions, today it was clear that I would do my last stroke, and I’m just happy and really really proud that we finished first,” Rauhe said.

“We had a challenge with the Spanish, it was close, I’m just happy that I can finish my career with a good one, I feel good to end everything.”

“Canoe sport is more than just a sport for me, it’s my heart. It’s fun for me to work with the guys, especially over the last five years whose company is always a special experience. All Olympic Games, all Olympic medals are special for me, it doesn’t matter if it is the first one or the second one.”

Germany K4 men Tokyo Olympics

Spain finished with the silver, and Slovakia the bronze. It was the first time the K4 was raced over the 500 metres, replacing the previous 1000 metre race. Germany, in a boat that included Rendschmidt and Leibscher, won the last K4 1000 in Rio.

An emotional Rauhe said after the race that it will be hard to walk away from canoe sprint, but that the time is right.

“I have spent a lot of time with canoeing sport, it’s been like a second family,” he said.

“It needs a bit of time for me to realise that it is in the past now, and I have a new life that I am really looking forward to. Spending a lot of time with my family, having new projects and finding another life.

“I’m really proud of what I did, so it makes it so easy for me to find the finish now.”

Rauhe is married to Fanny Fischer, herself an Olympic gold medalist and the niece of German canoeing legend, Birgit Fischer. He paid tribute to the sacrifices his wife and two sons, aged seven and four, had made to support his career.

He said they were looking forward to a life after canoeing.

“They are really really happy,” he said.

“Especially my wife, she has been such a big part of my medals and my results. She is my hero in secret. And my kids are for sure looking forward to spending more time with me.

“Today is a special day for me, because my son had his first day at school today and I couldn’t join him. It’s pretty hard for my heart, that’s why I’m going to fly home pretty fast to bring him to the first day at school, so I will go home now.”

His spirits were lifted by a message from home that the whole family had climbed out of bed in the middle of the night to watch the race.

“It was 3am in Germany, but I got a picture and everyone was up watching, so I will see if he was able to last a full first day at school,” Rauhe said.

It was the first medal in a men’s K4 for Spain since 1976, while Slovakia has now won minor medals in the K4 at four of the past five Olympics, missing out in 2012.

Pics by Bence Vekassy

Germany K4 men Tokyo Olympics


Canoe Sprint