27 September 2018

It would be easy to imagine that winning an Olympic gold medal would set you up for life, answer all your problems and fill your head with wonderful memories that will last an eternity.

Denis Gargaud Chanut is here to tell you it’s a myth. Sure, for some athletes it is all of the above. And for Gargaud Chanut, his C1 canoe slalom gold medal in Rio in 2016 has opened doors and given him a major career boost.

And it has provided him with lots of great memories. This week the Frenchman is back where it all happened, the Deodoro Whitewater Course in Rio.

And its brought back to the surface reminders of a four-year Olympic campaign that he dearly wanted to forget.

 “It’s a tricky question,” he said.

“Everyone is thinking that it is really good memories. I have spoken with my friends on the water and told them that it is good memories, of course, the majority of it is good memories.

“But to me, being here, racing in the Olympics, was a long quest. It had ups and downs, and the downs were very low, I have to say.

“So it also brings back bad memories that I wanted to bury. You can’t forget where you come from, and that is something that I want to be true about with myself. You can not forget where you come from.

“The last four years before Rio was good and bad, and the bad was very, very bad.”


Surprisingly, both Great Britain’s Joe Clarke and Spain’s Maialen Chourraut don’t have the moment they won gold in Rio as their strongest memory of the Games either.

“What I remember more is every training run, dreaming about crossing the finish line at the Olympics,” Chourraut said.

Clarke’s strongest memory is his first qualifying run, when he picked up a 50-second penalty and suddenly felt despair that he might have let all his family and friends down.

But all are back in Rio this week, and on Wednesday Gargaud Chanut and Chourraut both qualified second fastest for their respective semi-finals. Clarke races in the K1 on Thursday.

Two years out from Tokyo, Gargaud Chanut is trying to use what he learned from the last campaign to make this one a more enjoyable experience.

“I’m trying to improve from the mistakes that I made,” he said.

“I’m still young in my head, so sometimes I still do stupid things. But this is good because it means I still have to learn. 

“I really hope it will not be like the four years before Rio, on the road to Tokyo, but if I have to go on the same route, I will go.”

It’s not easy, though. In the lead-up to Rio very few people knew the name Denis Gargaud Chanut. Even the French team doubted his abilities, cutting him from the national team.

It hurt him a lot, and was one of the darkest moments of his qualifying campaign.


This time around there is no chance he will be cut from the French team. And no chance at all that he can fly under the radar again.

“I have more experience now, but there is also something new there. I have to change my way of racing,” he said.

“Before I was in the shadow of Tony (Estanguet), a big name, and I was comfortable with being in the shadow, doing my own thing. If I won it was good, if I didn’t win it wasn’t a big issue.

“Nobody ever said ‘Denis has failed’, because I was not on the top. But now I am, and I have to deal with that, its new for me and it’s really interesting.

“But it is tough.”

31-year-old Gargaud Chanut has dealt with tough before. It took him to the very top of his sport. He is ready to deal with tough again.

Spain <a href='/webservice/athleteprofile/35787' data-id='35787' target='_blank' class='athlete-link'>Maialen Chourraut</a> Rio World Championships 2018

Canoe Slalom
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