It was never going to be easy for Franz Anton and his German teammates to return to Rio.

Two years ago, just hours after Anton and Jan Benzien finished fourth in the men’s C2 Olympic final, their coach was involved in a traffic accident in a Rio taxi.

Stefan Henze died three days later. It was a tragic moment for sport, canoe slalom in particular, and the tight-knit German team especially.

Anton has spoken often of his memories from that dreadful time. It’s a moment he has found hard to shake, and which weighed heavily on his mind when he headed to Rio this month for the World Championships.

Maybe it overwhelmed him during his first run on Wednesday, because he was not his normal, sharp self. He had to do a second run to try and qualify for the semis, and this time he got it right.

He got it right again in the semis, and then on Saturday morning he delivered the biggest moment of his career – the 2018 ICF C1 Canoe Slalom world title.

Many onlookers thought the tears Franz Anton was shedding on Friday was an emotional outpouring after winning his first ever canoe slalom world title. But it ran much deeper than that.

“We lost Stefan here two years ago, and this is something I always have with me,” Anton said.

“It was great that he could be here with me on this run and that I could be fast. His last day was the final day of our C2 run, and after he was gone. This was the memory when I went back home, so it’s great that I could come back here and win the medal.

“He was a good friend, we are a team and everyone knows each other. We have such great emotions and feelings and memories.”

Anton is one of the nice guys on the international canoe circuit. Generous with his time and always happy to dig in. He was over the moon when he finally got back on the world cup podium in Tacen last month, winning a bronze, and then followed up with silver at the World Cup final in La Seu.

His gold medal on Saturday came despite a disrupted preparation.

“I had just four sessions here because I was ill, so I’m really happy I was able to recover thanks to my team,” Anton said.

“I think I am more focussed in my mind. I just say to myself, this is the day, and then push the button and start the engine.

“At the moment I don’t think about next year, I just focus on this race and the emotion. Next year will come around soon enough.”

2018 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships Rio Brazil <a href='/webservice/athleteprofile/35137' data-id='35137' target='_blank' class='athlete-link'>Franz Anton</a> GER

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