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

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

6 min By olympic-editorialworkflow
(Picture by 2021 Getty Images)

The canoe sprint competition at Tokyo 2020 was dramatic, to say the least! Among the flurry of Olympic best times at the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo Bay were spectacular last-second victories, historic achievements and new events making their Olympic debuts.

Below, we take a look back at the most memorable canoe sprint moments from Tokyo 2020, a recap of the medal winners, and who to look out for at the Paris 2024 Olympics in just three year’s time!

Top 5 canoe sprint moments at Tokyo 2020

Here are some of the highlights from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which took place in 2021.

1 - Nevin Harrison makes history

The first-ever women's Olympic canoe single 200m final saw 19-year-old Nevin Harrison surge to the inaugural gold medal in the event.

The American, who was Team USA's sole canoeist at Tokyo 2020, made a flying start from lane four and powered away from the field by the halfway stage.

Harrison crossed the line 0.854 seconds ahead of Canada's Laurence Vincent-Lapointe to become the first U.S. woman to win an Olympic gold medal in the sport of canoe sprint.

History maker Nevin Harrison
History maker Nevin Harrison (2021 Getty Images)
“It’s been a hard journey because I didn’t have anyone to follow,” Harrison told the New York Times. “I hope to be that person for the next generation.” She promised to return for the Paris Games in 2024.

2 - Lisa Carrington becomes New Zealand's most decorated Olympian

Carrington had a Games to remember in Tokyo, winning gold in the women’s kayak single 200m, K1 500m singles and the K2 500m with teammate Caitlin Regal.

With her three victories, Carrington took her Olympic medal tally to five golds and one bronze to become New Zealand's most decorated Olympian, surpassing fellow paddlers Ian Ferguson and Paul MacDonald and equestrian Mark Todd, who all won five Olympic medals.

“When you set out to do something, it is such a huge task," said Carrington on her success at the Olympics in Tokyo. "It is super scary to think it is possible, so I just did the best I could, trained incredibly hard, worked hard.

"It is just amazing to be able to pull it off.”

3 - A dramatic finish in the men's kayak four 500m

In an exceptionally close finish that was emblematic of many of the canoe sprint contests at Tokyo 2020, Germany just beat out Spain for the gold medal in the men's kayak four 500m by two-hundredths of a second.

Ronald Rauhe
Ronald Rauhe (2021 Getty Images)
It was a historic race, too, as Germany's Ronald Rauhe became the first man to win a medal in canoe sprint in five Olympic Games (the 39-year-old first competed at Sydney 2000, winning bronze in the kayak 500m doubles, before picking up gold in the same event at Athens 2004, silver at Beijing 2008 and bronze in the kayak single 200m in Rio).

4 - Teresa Portela finally gets her Olympic medal

Spanish paddler Teresa Portela is the definition of perserverance and a "never give up" attitude.

Despite winning a ridiculous 33 combined medals at the European and world championships (including nine gold medals), Portela, 39, was yet to finish on an Olympic podium - despite competing at five consecutive Games.

Teresa Portela
Teresa Portela (2021 Getty Images)

However, at her sixth Olympics in Tokyo, Portela finally broke through, winning silver in the women's K1 200m.

“It has been 20 years since the first Games, but look, it is never too late and it is (a medal) very well received. I am very, very happy, ” the Galician athlete told Hola News.

5 - Australia win gold by .3 of a second

To further emphasize just how close many canoe sprint races were in Tokyo, the men's kayak double 1000m came right down to the wire, with Australia and Germany battling for the gold medal.

The Australian pair of Tom Green and Jean van der Westhuyzen held a narrow lead at the 500m mark, but the German crew of Max Hoff and Jacob Schopf pulled even with just 300m to go.

In a sprint finish, the Australian pair found just enough gas to cross the line first by the smallest of margins; in the process, the duo became the first Australian athletes to win Olympic gold in the event in its 85-year history.

One last look

Isaquias Queiroz dos Santos experienced trauma as a child growing up in Brazil; when he was five he was kidnapped and offered up for adoption before being returned to his mother unharmed. At age 10, he fell out of a tree while playing and damaged a kidney so badly it had to be removed.

But the Brazilian overcame those challenges to win Olympic gold in the men's canoe single 1000m competition, telling Reuters that it was those childhood experiences that helped shape him.

Isaquias Queiroz dos Santos
Isaquias Queiroz dos Santos (2021 Getty Images)

"That is how I reached here," Queiroz dos Santos, who won two silver medals and a bronze at the Rio Olympics, told Reuters via a translator.

"I am not special for being here. I just tried and always believed myself."

Hello Paris

All eyes will be on Harrison and Carrington to see if the two women can pick up more gold medals in the water at Paris 2024, with the former just getting started in her Olympic career, and the latter - already a bonafide legend - competing at her fourth Games (barring unforeseen circumstances).

When and where to watch canoe sprint replays on Olympics.com

The answer is: olympics.com/tokyo2020-replays

When do the paddlers compete next?

Olympic gold and silver medalists Nevin Harrison and Adam Varga will head an exciting list of world-class canoe sprint paddlers competing at the ICF Canoe Sprint Super Cup in Oklahoma City, USA, on 21 August.

Full medals list in canoe sprint at Tokyo 2020

Women’s competition

Kayak Double 500m

Gold: Lisa Carrington, Caitlin Regal (NZL)

Silver: Karolina Naja, Anna Pulawska (POL

Bronze: Danuta Kozak, Dora Bodonyi (HUN)

Canoe Double 500m

Gold: Xu Shixiao, Sun Mengya (CHN)

Silver: Liudmyla Luzan, Anastasiia Chetverikova (UKR)

Bronze: Laurence Vincent-Lapointe, Katie Vincent (CAN)

Kayak Single 200m

Gold: Lisa Carrington

Silver: Teresa Portela

Bronze: Emma Aastrand Jorgensen

Kayak Four 500m

Gold: Hungary

Silver: Belarus

Bronze: Poland

Kayak Single 500m

Gold: Lisa Carrington

Silver: Tamara Csipes

Bronze: Emma Aastrand Jorgensen

Canoe Single 200m

Gold: Nevin Harrison (USA)

Silver: Laurence Vincent-Lapointe (CAN)

Bronze: Liudmyla Luzan (UKR)

Men’s events

Kayak Double 1000m

Gold: Jean van der Westhuyzen, Thomas Green (AUS)

Silver: Max Hoff, Jacob Schopf

Bronze: Josef Dostál, Radek Šlouf (CZE)

Canoe Double 1000m

Gold: Serguey Torres, Fernando Jorge (CUB)

Silver: Liu Hao, Zheng Pengfei (CHN)

Bronze: Sebastian Brendel, Tim Hecker (GER)

Kayak Single 200m

Gold: Sándor Tótka (HUN)

Silver: Manfredi Rizza (ITA)

Bronze: Liam Heath (GBR)

Kayak Four 500m

Gold: Max Rendschmidt, Ronald Rauhe, Tom Liebscher, Max Lemke (GER)

Silver: Saúl Craviotto, Marcus Walz, Carlos Arévalo, Rodrigo Germade (ESP)

Bronze: Samuel Baláž, Denis Myšák, Erik Vlček, Adam Botek (SVK)

Kayak Single 1000m

Gold: Bálint Kopasz (HUN)

Silver: Ádám Varga (HUN)

Bronze: Fernando Pimenta (POR)

Canoe Single 1000m

Gold: Isaquias Queiroz (BRA)

Silver: Liu Hao (CHN)

Bronze: Serghei Tarnovschi (MDA)

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