Slovakian twins carrying nation's hopes in London
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By STEVE DOUGLAS,
Updated July 13, 2012
LONDON (AP) Canoeing's most famous double act is headed back to the Olympics again, and the home country expects another victory.
It's OK. Peter and Pavol Hochschorner are used to it.
The twins are sporting icons in Slovakia after winning canoe slalom's C-2 event at the last three summer games, accounting for almost half of their country's gold medals since gaining independence from Czechoslovakia in 1993.
A fourth consecutive Olympic title in whitewater slalom would be an unprecedented feat, matching their record run of victories at world championships from 2008-2011. But breaking records just seems to come naturally for the fun-loving 32-year-old brothers from Bratislava.
"The pressure is similar to other years - we are used to it that as for more than 10 years, our country has expected the best results from us," Peter Hochschorner told The Associated Press. "That pressure helps us to concentrate and motivates us to make these results.
"But I'm not even thinking about the Olympics yet. I will only start thinking about it when I sit in the plane to London."
The Hochschorners traveled to London last year to take a closer look at the Lee Valley White Water Center course that will host the Olympic canoe slalom from July 29 to Aug. 2. They won the C-2 competition at a test event, and Peter Hochschorner wasn't very impressed by the 250-meter course, either.
"At Lee Valley, many parts of the course are the same and for me it's little bit boring," he said. "But I'm not saying it's not good for paddling. I think you can learn this course quickly."
Slovakia has ruled the whitewater waves since the turn of the century, making its paddlers the country's most successful sports stars. All seven of Slovakia's gold medals have come in canoe slalom and it has strong contenders for two of the other three disciplines raced at the Olympics.
Jana Dukatova beat reigning two-time Olympic champion Elena Kaliska in a fiercely competitive national trial and will be one of the favorites in the women's K-1. Michal Martikan also has won two Olympic golds, including in Beijing in 2008, and will resume his decade-long tussle with French rival Tony Estanguet - another double gold medalist - in the men's C-1.
Only now there's a new kid in town, threatening to break Slovakia's hold on the sport.
In Cardiff at the start of June, Britain's David Florence became the first man to win both C-1 and C-2 events at a World Cup meet. The high-quality field included the Hochschorner brothers.
The twin victories showed Britain's improvement in canoeing and kayaking in the run-up to the Games. The host country also could be a factor in the canoe sprint at Dorney Lake, west of London, which will be held after the rowing regatta on the same stretch of water.
To inject some excitement into a sport that is regularly overshadowed by its bigger brother, canoe sprint officials replaced the men's 500 meters with the 200. Races will be over in barely 30 seconds in an exhibition of raw power where athletes paddle at a rate of 180 strokes a minute.
"It will be explosive," Simon Toulson, secretary general of International Canoe Federation, told the AP. "That's the idea behind the 200; we wanted to showcase that canoeing and rowing are two very different sports."
Britain's Ed McKeever, nicknamed `Usain Bolt on Water,' is expected to do well in the K-1 200, but the Germans are coming off dominant showings in recent World Cup events.
One of the top medal threats for Germany is 35-year-old Katrin Wagner-Augustin, who is competing in the kayak fours raced over 500 meters and is trying to win gold at a fourth straight Olympics after victories at Sydney (K-2 and K-4), Athens (K-4) and Beijing (K-4).
A 10-time world champion since 1997, Wagner-Augustin is one of Germany's most successful athletes.
In a sport where traditional Olympic powers United States, China and Russia are largely non-factors, Hungary is the other big force, with its raft of top-class paddlers treated like Hollywood celebrities back home.
Twelve medals are up for grabs in the canoe sprint, which is held from Aug. 6-11.
Gold: Ivan Shtyl, Russia
Silver: Alfonso Benavides, Spain
Bronze: Stefan Kiraj, Germany
Gold: Attila Vajda, Hungary
Silver: Sebastian Brendel, Germany
Bronze: Mark Oldershaw, Canada
Silver: Czech Republic
Gold: Ed McKeezer, Britain
Silver: Piotr Siemionowski, Poland
Bronze: Cesar De Cesare, Ecuador
Gold: Adam van Koeverden, Canada
Silver: Max Hoff, Germany
Bronze: Anders Gustafsson, Sweden
Gold: Yury Postrigay and Alexander Dyachenko, Russia
Silver: Sebastien Jouve and Arnaud Hybois, France
Bronze: Jonathan Schofield and Liam Heath, Britain
Gold: Andreas Ihle and Martin Hollstein, Germany
Silver: Peter Gelle and Erik Vlcek, Slovakia
Bronze: Henrik Nilsson, Markus Oscarsson, Sweden
Gold: Czech Republic
Gold: Natasa Douchev-Janics, Hungary
Silver: Lisa Carrington, New Zealand
Bronze: Marta Walczykiewicz, Poland
Gold: Danuta Kozak, Hungary
Silver: Nicole Reinhardt, Germany
Bronze: Henriette Engel Hansen, Denmark
Gold: Tina Dietze and Franziska Weber, Germany
Silver: Tamara Csipes and Gabriella Szabo, Hungary
Bronze: Beata Mikolajczyk and Karolina Naja, Poland
Gold: Tony Estanguet, France
Silver: Michal Martikan, Slovakia
Bronze: Nico Bettge, Germany
Gold: Pavol Hochschorner and Peter Hochschorner, Slovakia
Silver: Denis Gargaud Chanut and Fabien Lefevre, France
Bronze: David Florence and Richard Hounslow, Britain
Gold: Daniele Molmenti, Italy
Silver: Fabien Lefevre, France
Bronze: Mateusz Polaczyk, Poland
Gold: Jana Dukatova, Slovakia
Silver: Corinna Kuhnle, Austria
Bronze: Carole Bouzidi, France