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Saturday, August 28, 2004
Fischer's tally: eight golds, four silvers

Associated Press

SCHINIAS, Greece -- Germany's Birgit Fischer settled for silver, giving the 42-year-old Olympian two medals in two days against decidedly younger competition.

A two-woman crew from Hungary overtook Fischer and her partner in the second half of their 500-meter kayak race Saturday, ending her quest for a ninth gold medal a day after winning her eighth in the fours kayak.

"I'm not at all disappointed,'' said Fischer, who only came out of retirement a year ago. "At 42 years old, what else can you expect -- and I didn't train as long as the others.''

Natasa Janics and Katalin Kovacs maintained their margin despite a strong finish by the Germans. Poland got the bronze.

It was a remarkable performance by Janics, who won the 500-meter single kayak race only 70 minutes earlier. And Fischer once again proved she could beat competitors half her age.

Janics, 22, wasn't even born when Fischer won the first of her eight gold medals in Moscow in 1980. Fischer got her fourth silver since she started competing for former East Germany.

Like Fischer, Janics made her Olympic debut at 18 in the single. But the Hungarian was fourth in Sydney.

"I was happy with this because I was very young and didn't have experience,'' Janics said. "In this Olympics -- two gold medals -- I'd be very sad if I didn't do it.''

Fischer and teammate Carolin Leonhardt paddled over to Kovacs and Janics to exchange congratulatory kisses, then the victors paddled past a grandstand brimming with flag-waving, drum-beating, singing Hungarians.

Janics continued celebrating after her boat docked, jumping into the water.

Earlier, she was nearly as exuberant after her single kayak victory against defending champion Josefa Idem of Italy, who finished second, and two-time silver medalist Caroline Brunet of Canada, who finished third.

Janics and Fischer just might race one another again. Fischer hasn't ruled out trying to compete in Beijing in 2008.

In another race, Germany's Andreas Dittmer got revenge against his new rival.

A day after being surprised by Spaniard David Cal's fast start in the 1,000-meter single canoe final, Dittmer changed his tactics in the 500-meter event Saturday, making sure he stayed close for the entire race.

Dittmer pulled ahead at the end to defeat the 21-year-old Cal by .34 seconds, then let his head drop and clenched his left fist. Russia's Maxim Opalev took bronze.

"Yesterday I was angry because I was second. I tried to calm down and make a new effort today,'' Dittmer said. "Toward the end of the race I was sure I could make it.''

It was Dittmer's first Olympic gold at 500 meters; the longer distance has been his forte. He arrived in Greece as defending gold medalist and three-time defending world champion at 1,000 meters, but finished second in that final to Cal, meaning his only remaining chance for gold would be the 500, which puts more of a premium on speed than stamina.

It was another disappointing race for 1996 double gold medalist Martin Doktor of the Czech Republic. The 30-year-old ended the Athens Games without a medal after a fifth-place finish in the 500-meter and a fourth in Friday's 1,000.

Dittmer now has three gold medals, his first coming in the canoe pairs 1,000 in 1996.

Canadian single kayaker Adam van Koeverden took his second medal of the game -- this one a gold in the 500-meter final. A day earlier, he was first halfway through the 1,000-meter race, but faded to third.

In the 500, van Koeverden beat Australia's Nathan Baggaley by .55 seconds, with Britain's Ian Wynne taking bronze.

In the 500-meter pairs kayak, Germany's Ronald Rauhe and Tim Wieskoetter pulled out to an early lead and won handily, while three squads finished within .12 seconds of each other for second place. Australia ended up with the silver, .07 seconds ahead of Belarus, which took the bronze.

The Chinese canoe pair of Guanliang Meng and Wenjun Yang delivered a surprise victory in a race where five canoes crossed the line in a photo finish.

Officials didn't release the result until most competitors were out of their canoes and on the dock. The Chinese team raised their arms and then, as if in disbelief, asked a team official if they had really won their country's first gold in canoe racing.

Although the pair was new to the Olympics and never had a top three finish in the world championships, their success was not unprecedented. They won their first World Cup race this summer in Germany.