The semifinal and final round of the men's singles canoe slalom event at the 2012 Summer Olympics were held on Tuesday, July 31, and Tony Estanguet of France was able to take home the gold medal. Sideris Tasiadis of Germany won the silver medal and Michal Martikan of Slovakia earned the bronze. While Estanguet performed rather well in every run, he did not look like he was a serious contender for the gold medal. Slalom canoeing is all about making the final round and then making your best run, and that is exactly what Tony Estanguet did on Tuesday.
The heat round that was held earlier in the week knocked the field down to the 12 fastest participants. These 12 canoeists then got one run in the semifinal round, where the top 8 times would advance to the finals. Estanguet was able to put up a solid time and finish in third place to advance to the final round. Estanguet was able to knock over four seconds off of his time in the semifinal run to post a run time of 97.06 seconds. This was narrowly enough to win the gold medal, and only 1.25 seconds separated Estanguet from Michal Martikan in third place.
The two most talked about names heading into this event were Michal Martikan and David Florence, and both performed below their expectations. Martikan was the big favorite to win the gold medal. He achieved the fastest run time in the entire tournament during the heats, and was the gold medal winner in this event in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. While a bronze medal is not anything to be ashamed of, much more was expected of him.
While Martikan's performance was rather shocking, there was nothing more shocking in this event than the performance of David Florence. Florence was the defending silver medal winner and seemed to be a clear favorite to get on the podium again, but he could not advance out of the semifinal round. The only thing that can explain the poor showing of Florence is the pressure of performing in front of your home country. Some athletes thrive in front of the hometown fans, and others do not know how to handle it. All these great athletes proved how difficult and exciting the sport of slalom canoeing can really be at the Summer Olympics.
Jake has been canoeing and kayaking several times in his life, and enjoys watching the sport every four years at the Summer Olympics.