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Friday, August 20, 2004
Slovakian brothers take pairs canoe gold

Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Americans Joe Jacobi and Matt Taylor fell out of medal contention Friday with an eighth-place in their semifinal run in pairs canoe.

The pair struggled to get up to speed and struck a gate for a 2-second penalty, leaving them about 4 seconds behind Germans Christian Bahmamnn and Michael Senft, the sixth and final team to advance to the final run.

Brothers Pavel and Peter Hochshorner, the defending gold medalists from Sydney, demolished the rest of the field, finishing 4.5 seconds ahead of the second-place Frenchmen Philippe Quemerais and Yann Le Pennec.

Also on Friday, Frenchman Benoit Peschier, who entered the Olympics ranked 12th in the world in single kayak slalom, put together a pair of clean, fast runs Friday to win the gold medal.

Peschier was second behind Britain's Campbell Walsh by .25 seconds after the semifinal run, then beat Walsh by 2.46 on the final run through the whitewater course. Walsh had a clean run but got hung up in several spots.

Defending world champion Fabien Lefevre of France took bronze, 3.03 seconds behind Pecheir on combined time.

Foaming whitewater falsely tripped the start timer before Walsh had actually crossed the starting line, causing the scoreboard to initially show he finished out of the medals -- to the disappointment of a sizable, flag-waving British crowd. But Walsh ended up on the podium after all.

Scott Parsons was the only American to make the 10-boat finals after a ninth-best time in the semifinals. He finished sixth.

"I paddled hard and never really found my groove,'' he said. "I got a lot of experience and now I know what the Olympics feels like. Hopefully, four years from now, I'll be at the top and favored coming in.''

Earlier, U.S. captain Brett Heyl, who had looked the best of the Americans in the preliminary with a fifth-fastest time, fell out of contention with a 15th place in his semifinal run.

Switzerland's Michael Kurt, who had the best combined preliminary time, hit two gates for four seconds in penalties and fell all the way to last out of the 20 semifinalists.

The Hochshorner brothers from Slovakia moved smoothly through the whitewater course, showing the form that helped them win the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics. They celebrated in unison as they crossed the finish line, simultaneously pumping their right fists in the air.

Their final time was 207.16, beating Marcus Becker and Stefan Henze of Germany by 3.82 seconds.

The Hochschorners were way ahead with five gates to go, prompting fans in the amphitheater-style grandstand to cheer loudly. The pair then made a rare mistake, touching the third-to-last gate for a 2-second penalty that cut into their lead.

Jaroslav Volf and Ondrej Stepanek of the Czech Republic took bronze, just less than 2 seconds behind the Germans.

Frenchmen Philippe Quemerais and Yann Le Pennec were second after the semifinals, but slipped to fifth after touching two gates for a combined 4 seconds in penalties.