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Fischer's tally: eight golds, four silvers

8/28/2004

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.