The recent London 2012 Olympics left us with a lot to be amazed about. From Michael Phelps’ record 22 medals to Usain Bolt’s epic triple gold repeat in the sprints to Mo Farah’s unbelievable distance double gold against a stacked field to the many flavors of gymnastics tears these Olympics certainly inspired a generation! With all of this prime-time drama it got me thinking about who, if anyone, in the history of our favorite but less-televised sport of kayaking may match up to the Phelps and Bolts of the Olympic world. Here are the stories of Olympic kayaking legend:
Most Olympic Kayaking Medals:
Since the inception of Olympic flatwater kayaking at the 1936 Berlin Olympics (women’s flatwater was added at the 1948 London games) there has been one athlete who has demonstrated Phelpsian dominance over the field. Brigit Fischer of Germany (formerly of East Germany) competed in seven Olympic Games between 1980 and 2004 (not including the East German boycott of the 1984 games) and earned an astounding 12 medals in flatwater kayaking (8 gold, 4 silver). She also holds the record for being the youngest (18) and oldest (42) Olympic kayaker to win gold! Talk about durability and dominance!
Most Olympic Kayaking Medals by an American:
Greg Barton’s Olympic resume stems from a true American story of dreaming to the moon and getting there on the back of determination and hard work despite adversity. His doctors certainly never predicted that he’d become an Olympic athlete given that he was born with two clubbed feet. Never mind the fact that at 5’11” and 175lbs he was clearly a light weight fighting in a heavyweight division of 6’2+ and 220lbs paddlers. None of this mattered to Greg as he tore through the 1988 Seoul games to claim gold medals in the K1-1000m and K2-1000m races (representing America’s first gold in flatwater kayaking). Add the two bronze medals that he earned in the K1-1000m at the 1984 Los Angeles games and the 1992 Barcelona games and you have the most dominant American Olympic flatwater kayaker of all time!
Most Olympic Kayaking Gold Medals in a Single Games:
If you’re looking for Bolt-like dominance in Olympic flatwater kayaking then two stories stand out. The first is that of 21 year-old Vladimir Parfenovich of Belarus who earned triple gold in the K1-500m, K2-500m, and K2-1000m at the 1980 Moscow games. Not to disappoint the Kiwi nation, 32 year-old Ian Ferguson of Auckland, New Zealand followed up at the 1984 Los Angeles games to claim triple gold in the K1-500m, K2-500m, and K4-1000m.
Some incredible Olympic stories! Now only if we could get NBC to give flatwater kayaking some prime-time coverage at the 2016 Rio Oylmpic games!!!