Janić paddles her way to double gold

The date of 28 August 2004 will forever be etched into the memory of canoeist Nataša Janić, as it was the day she became a double Olympic champion.

Picture by Getty (3)

Janić’s father, Milan, had himself been a world champion who won an Olympic silver medal at Los Angeles 1984. Canoe sport was in her family, with brothers Mićo and Stjepan also competing at the very top level.

Nataša had made her Olympic debut in 2000, when she represented Serbia and came fourth in the women’s K-1 500m, but a year later she moved to Hungary and began to compete for her adopted homeland.

Over the intervening years, she had matured markedly as an athlete and a competitor. She won her first world title in 2002, in the K-4 200m, and followed up a year later with a gold in the K-4 1,000m. She arrived in Athens full of confidence, and ready to undertake the substantial challenge of going for two Olympic golds on the same day – in the K-1 500m, and then in the doubles alongside Katalin Kovács.

First up was the singles, in which Janić knew she would face stiff competition in the guise of Italy's Josefa Idem and Canadian Caroline Brunet, who had taken silver in this event at the previous two Games.

In fact, the race produced what was a fairly straightforward victory for Janić, who crossed the line some two seconds clear of Idem, while Brunet was this time relegated to the bronze medal position.

Janić had only an hour to enjoy her victory before starting the doubles final. It was an event in which Hungary had a very strong record of success at world and European championships, but not, curiously enough, at the Olympic Games.

Again, the final didn't prove to be the fierce contest that many had predicted, with the Hungarian crew securing a rather comfortable victory ahead of Germany and Poland, setting a new Olympic record in the process

Janić continued her run of success over subsequent years, amassing a gold, two silvers and a bronze at the next two editions of the Olympic Games in 2008 and 2012 Games. She gave birth to a daughter in 2011 and named her Milana, in memory of her father, who had instilled in her such a love for canoeing. And in 2012, after more than a decade competing under the Hungarian flag, she opted to return to the country of her birth, with the aim of representing Serbia at Rio 2016.