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October 1, 2000

Brunet solos to silver, finishes fifth with partner


CBC SPORTS ONLINE - She waited four long years, but in the end Canada's eight-time world kayaking champion could do no better than she did in Atlanta.

A silver medallist. Caroline Brunet has to settle for being an Olympic bridesmaid once again. Somehow, it just doesn't sound right for the woman who hadn't lost a K1 500 race in more than two years and is referred to as the "queen of kayaking."

Italy's Josefa Idem Guerrini, Brunet's worthiest competition during the past couple of years, paddled the best race today, winning in a bloated time of 2:13.848 while Brunet finished second in a time of 2:14.646. Idem had the fastest time of all the qualifiers going into the final. Katrin Borchert of Australia won the bronze.

A normal pace for the K1 500 is about 1:50.

All paddlers battled the winds and looked like a field of nervous thoroughbreds at the start line, trying to still their boats in the choppy waters.

Put simply, the conditions and the delay all added up to a rough race for Brunet. At no point during the race did she have a lead. CBC canoe-kayak analyst Scott Logan pointed out that Brunet was about 10 strokes off her normal pace of 95-100 strokes per minute.

With less than 100 metres to go Brunet could not make a move on the 36-year-old Idem, who on this day, was the better kayaker.

It was one tough day for Brunet, as an hour after her silver medal race, she and her partner Karen Furneaux finished a disappointing fifth in the K2 500.

"It was a nightmare from the moment I was warming up this morning on the course before they announced the first delay," said a disheartened Brunet after the race. "But that's part our sport -- we have to deal with those types of conditions. It just turned that today it was on an Olympic final day."

The conditions were so unappealing to Brunet that, prepared as she was, she actually thought of pulling out of the race altogether.

"I didn't think the conditions were fair. At the starting line at the K1, I actually thought to just back up (and forfeit the race) because I thought it just wasn't worth it. I didn't think I could race at my best, but then again everyone was in the same position," she told the CBC's Chris Cuthbert.

The canoe-kayak finals were delayed for six hours because of gusting winds -- even when they got the green light, paddlers had to contend with headwinds up to 56 km/h, which made for very choppy waters and waves that lapped up over the sides of the boats.

Her partner, Karen Furneaux, who had been looking forward to the K2 race with Brunet ever since they hooked up a year and a half ago, never foresaw having to go for a medal under such conditions.

"I've had a thousand dreams about this race," she said. "But I never thought we'd have waves going over the boat into my chest. I guess I'll plan for that in the future."

Germany's Birgit Fischer extended her brilliant Olympic career winning an astonishing seventh gold medal to go with her three silvers, making her the most decorated female kayaker in Olympic history.

Fischer is now the winningest Olympian in German history, and the 20-year span from her first gold medal in 1980 to her latest in Sydney is the longest by any female Olympian and the second-longest in all of Olympic history, trailing only Hungarian fencer Aladar Gerevich, whose won his first in 1928 and his last in 1960.

The Hungarian crew of Katalin Kovacs and Szilvia Szabo won silver, while Poland's Beata Sokolowska and Aneta Pastuszka won bronze.

In the C1 500, surprise upstart 22-year-old Maxime Boilard of Lac-Beauport, Quebec, paddled a strong race in the same blustery conditions, finishing fourth in a very strong field.

Gyorgy Kolonics of Hungary won the gold in the event over two of the greatest canoeists in the world, Russia's Maxim Opalev, who finished with silver, and German Andreas Dittmer who came in for bronze.

Boilard later said that all the delays and uncertainty over when the race would finally be run made it "one of the worst days of my life.

"I was here at 7:15 this morning, getting ready for my race, then they told us we were going to go later. I made my race preparations four times today, so (that meant) three times before my final race. These three preparations were more tiring than the race itself I'm sure."

Boilard was happy with his own fine result, but his heart went out to Brunet.

"I feel bad for Caroline because I'm sure the entire paddling community knows that she's the fastest and these conditions made it harder for her to win," said Boilard.

"So it's really sad, but I know she will get over this."






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