In 2016 Germany’s Sideris Tasiadis went into the Rio Olympics as a favourite to win canoe slalom gold, and he did not enjoy the experience at all.

“There was pressure on me in Rio, because the German press and media said to me that I was the favourite because I won silver in London, and the gold medalist was not in Rio,” Tasiadis said.

“They think I was the number one, but I would say ‘guys, no, it doesn’t work like that, because in canoe slalom it happens so fast. If you touch one gate, the first gate, however you do it, if you are not focussed on that moment, then the gold medal is gone. Maybe the silver and the bronze as well.

“It happened to me in Rio. I touched one gate, so slightly, and then I was in fifth place.”

On Sunday Tasiadis will begin his third Olympic campaign, and for the second time he finds himself favourite. He has been wearing the number one bib in training, signifying he is the top ranked male canoe paddler in the world.

See Sideris' bio, schedule, and results for Tokyo 2020

Five years on from Rio, Tasiadis believes he is a very different paddler, much stronger mentally, and even relishing the favouritism tag.

“I think I like being the favourite,” he said.

“In 2012 I was a youngster, and there was nobody saying to me you are the favourite there, and that’s why I think I raced there, had fun, and won a medal. It was a little bit of a surprise for me.

“And now everybody knows Sideris Tasiadis is now the number one since 2018, and everyone is saying ‘you are the favourite’. Yes, but it is a little bit hard to keep the line, because I know I can win here, but if you are on the start line, and mentally you’re not there, or you’re not focussed, then you will not win here.”

As was the case in Rio, the previous Olympic gold medalist is missing from Tokyo France’s Denis Gargaud Chanut did not qualify, but the silver medalist, Slovakia’s Matej Benus, and the bronze medalist, Japan’s Takuya Haneda, both did.

Tasiadis on competiting for his Olympic selection

In fact Tasiadis believes there are at least 10 paddlers in the men’s canoe competition who can challenge for the podium. But after a decade of paddling, and no Olympic or world championship gold medal to his name, the 31-year-old German believes his time is now.

“It’s a child’s dream to have an Olympic medal at home,” he said.

“It’s good to have had that Olympic experience for the head, mentally, to know how I want to prepare for it. You are now mentally so strong, with the years and years of experience, and you know when your body says ‘ok, enough is enough training, you have to rest’.

“I don’t know if I’m stronger, I think yes, it’s now been nine years between Olympics. With the years you now go harder at the lines, and you know when you have to cut the lines, and when to not.”

Tasiadis believes the Kasai Slalom course will suit his style. Since his last visit in 2019 there have been changes made which have reduced the number of what he calls “quite easy parts”. The harder the course the better for Sideris Tasiadis.

Away from the water, his third Olympic Games is presenting other challenges.

“It feels different. You have to wear a mask all the time, it’s not the same feeling at the village because everyone is social distancing,” he said.

“But I think every athlete is happy to be here and to race.”

The men’s canoe slalom heats will be held on Sunday, with the semi-final and final on Monday.

Full schedule for canoe slalom at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

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