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September 17, 2000

Langford defeated by whitewater course

Globe and Mail
Penrith, Australia — It was a bitter pill for whitewater kayaker Margaret Langford to swallow. She dreamed of a medal, but instead she got a mouthful of water and sad memories of finishing in 13th place at the Sydney Olympics Monday.

“It's a disappointment,” she said Monday, after two runs on the roiling waters of the man-made course. “They were two tough courses.”

The first run was a bit of a nightmare. Langford found herself backwards heading for a gate and struggled to right the problem over a particularly wild hole, where the water swelled like the second coming of Noah.

“I lost six seconds,” she said. “When that happens, you can't make it up.”

It wouldn't have been so bad if she had been able to finish in the top five. But it was Langford's third Olympics and she expected more. In 1992 in Barcelona, Langford finished eighth, and in Atlanta, 15th. She's had top placings in World Cup events over the past three years. And last season, she had finished fourth at a World Cup, only 8/10ths of a point away from a medal.

“It's tough in sport,” said the 30-year-old public relations worker from Lion's Bay, B.C., “You choose to play.”

Winning gold was Stepanka Hilgertova of Czech Republic in a slight surprise, upsetting favourite Brigitte Guibal of France, where whitewater kayaking is a popular, well-financed sport. (Langford's coach, Vincent Redon is a native of France.)Hilgertova emerged with only two penalty points and a much quicker second run than Guibal, who picked up four penalty points over the day.

Overall, Hilgertova outfinished Guibal by 4.84 points. Third was Anne-Lise Bardet of France, 7.73 points behind the gold medalist.

Langford finished with 274.14 points, 27.10 points behind Hilgertova. She had eight penalty points.

Reprinted with permission

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