What we learned: Canoe slalom wrap-up from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Take a look at the most memorable moments of the canoe slalom competition at Tokyo 2020, a medal recap, and what we have to look forward to at Paris 2024. 

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Canoe slalom is always full of thrills, spills, and spine-tingling chills at the Olympic Games and Tokyo 2020 didn't disappoint.

12 medals were awarded across four high-octane canoe and kayak events at the Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre.

Australia's Jessica Fox was so nervous that she threw up before the women's canoe slalom, memories of Rio racing through her mind, but she managed to make it golden and write her column of Olympic history.

There was joy too for Germany's Ricarda Funk who beat Fox at Rio 2016, while Czech paddler Jiří Prskavec and Slovak Benjamin Savsek were also top of the world.

Read on for the Top 5 canoe and kayak moments at Tokyo 2020, where you can watch highlights, replays, and take a look ahead at the Paris 2024 Games.

No Tokyo Drift: Top 5 Canoe Slalom moments at the Tokyo 2020 Games

1. Jessica Fox's iconic Olympic gold medal moment

Jessica Fox had come so close so many times and at Tokyo 2020 she finally had the moment she's worked a lifetime for.

Silver at London 2012, bronze at Rio 2016, Fox completed the collection in Tokyo with a stunning display at the first ever women's C1 canoe slalom at the Olympic Games.

A gold medal for the Australian slalom superstar came after a clean run in a time of 105.04, which was a full 3.64 seconds ahead of second-placed Brit, Mallory Franklin (108.68).

Fox said she was so nervous that she threw up twenty minutes before the race, but held it together on the water.

It was her last chance at gold as two days before she had claimed bronze in the kayak slalom where two pole strikes cost her a four second penalty and gave Germany’s Ricarda Funk the title.

Fox overcame the nerves in the canoe final and had the medal she craved most, the four-time world champ was finally an Olympic gold medallist.

“I was just thrilled to be part of that, and I knew I had to do the best run that I could, no mistakes, just piece it together the whole way down and hold it together. I was full of emotion at the finish line to have done that.”

2. Funk soul sister

It was right about now for Ricarda Funk in the women's kayak final as she came up with a performance of a lifetime to end Jess Fox's bid for a canoe/kayak golden double.

Fox had clocked the fastest run but two errors proved costly and Funk's mistake-free paddle down the rapids was enough for gold.

1:05.50 is a time that Funk will never forget, she was 1.13 seconds clear of reigning Olympic champion Maialen Chourraut.

Fox wore bronze despite her blistering 1:02.73 time, two pole strikes adding four penalty seconds to leave her in third.

Five years ago Funk, now 29, wasn't even selected for the team in Rio, now she's an Olympic champion.

"I was really sad after my non-selection in 2016, and I was fighting hard and kept fighting for five years, and now it’s a gold medal," Funk said.

"I knew I could do it, but it was like a puzzle, I had to bring all the pieces together.

"I knew I had the ability."

3. Maialen Chourraut wins Olympic silver at 38

Spain's canoe slalom champ at Rio 2016 Maialen Chourrault was fractions from another gold and completed her own Olympic collection in Tokyo.

Chourrault had won bronze at London 2012, gold at Rio 2016 and added silver in Tokyo, despite not having her fastest times ever before these Olympic Games.

"I never throw in the towel, I always go over things many times and fight to the end," she told Spanish TV after her silver medal triumph.

"I wasn't coming into these Games as the fastest," she admitted, saying that it had been a tough Olympic cycle having to spend time away from her daughter Ane.

"We stumbled many times, but we got back on our feet every time," she said.

4. Czech this out: Jiří Prskavec delivers

Jiří Prskavec came into these Games with a target on his back as reigning world champion and lived up to the hype on the Tokyo rapids.

The 28-year-old Czech paddler was imperious in the men's kayak slalom, winning with more than a three-second margin over silver medallist Jakub Grigar from Slovakia.

Grigar was fifth in Rio, and five years on won the first-ever Olympic medal in kayak slalom for his nation, following up on a brilliant win at the last World Cup before the Games.

Germany’s experienced paddler Hannes Aigner was fourth in Rio, and was delighted to back on the podium in Tokyo adding another bronze medal to the one he claimed at London 2012.

For Prskavec it was Rio redemption too after he was one penalty deduction from winning gold five years ago in Brazil. He made no mistake in Tokyo with a flawless descent, clocking the quickest times in both the semi-final and final runs.

5. Benjamin Savsek wins Slovenia's first canoe slalom gold medal

"We are small... but we are big in sport," beamed Benjamin Savsek after he claimed a historic first for Slovenia.

While Luka Doncic was ripping it up on the basketball court, the rapids belonged to Savsek.

A mistake-free no-holds-barred run in the men's canoe slalom final gave him gold with Czech paddler Lukas Rohan right behind him.

Savsek timed 98.25 to Rohan's 99.96 but two penalty seconds for Rohan padded out the Slovenian's winning margin even further.

Germany's Sideris Tasiadis bagged bronze clocking 1:03.70.

One last look

Savsek's gold was a turning point too for Olympic canoe slalom, which has been dominated by France and Slovakia all the way back to the 90's.

France and Slovakia have won every men’s canoe gold medal since the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. The French have had four Games champions, while Slovakia has won at least one medal at every Games since 1996.

Savsek broke that stranglehold and now it's anyone's game.

Six different nations shared out the medals in Tokyo with Britain's trailblazing paddler Mallory Franklin claiming the only medal for Team GB.

At the first Games of gender parity in canoe slalom, we got an unforgettable show.

Hello Paris 2024

With the next Olympic Games just three years away at Paris 2024, there's plenty to look forward to already.

More events, more medals, and more participation than ever in the discipline make it as open as it's ever been, with space for more Olympic champions from different places.

Benjamin Savsek led the way by claiming Slovenia's first ever gold medal and Paris will bring its own historic firsts.

Jess Fox will be 31 in Paris, she could be vying for more gold in the French capital while Ricarda Funk will be 33, both still in their prime.

21-year-old Andrea Herzog gave us a glimpse at canoe slalom powerhouse Germany's next generation, she was on the podium with bronze behind Fox and Franklin, and big things could be in store in Paris for her.

And you could say the same about 24-year-old Jakub Grigar, the 24-year-old Slovak kayak silver-medallist.

At Paris, expect to see some exciting names you haven't even heard of yet.

Canoe slalom highlights and replays on Olympics.com

You can watch highlights and full events from canoe slalom at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics right here: olympics.com/tokyo2020-replays

Canoe Slalom Tokyo 2020 medallists

Men's canoe

Gold: Benjamin Savsek (SLO)

Silver: Lukas Rohan (CZE)

Bronze: Sideris Tasiadis (GER)

Women's kayak

Gold: Ricarda Funk (GER)

Silver: Maialen Chourraut (ESP)

Bronze: Jessica Fox (AUS)

Women's canoe

Gold: Jessica Fox (AUS)

Silver: Mallory Franklin (GBR)

Bronze: Andrea Herzog (GER)

Men's kayak

Gold: Jiří Prskavec (CZE)

Silver: Jakub Grigar ((SVK)

Bronze: Hannes Aigner (GER)