Germany and Hungary continued their canoe sprint rivalry as both nations managed to claim two gold medals on the opening day of finals here today.
The historic first-ever canoeing European Games gold medal went to German Max Hoff, the reigning European champion and Olympic bronze medallist from London 2012, as he took victory in the men’s K1 1000 metres in a time of 3min 28.205sec.
That proved enough to beat Fernando Pimenta of Portugal, while Rene Holten Poulsen of Denmark, the world champion in the K1 500m, came through to win bronze.
World champion Josef Dostal failed to finish on the podium as he languished down in sixth.
There was more success for Germany in the next race of the day as Olympic champion and hot favourite Sebastian Brendel stormed to victory in the men’s C1 1000m, crossing the line in 3:50.417 to add the European Games title to his ever-growing medal collection.
Czech youngster Martin Fuksa was second, just under a second adrift of the dominant German, and 2008 Olympic champion Attila Vajda of Hungary was third.
“I executed my game plan and that worked,” Brendel, who now holds the Olympic, world, European and European Games titles, said.
“No-one has competed here before and the circumstances change every time.
“The plan was to have a good start but to hold a little bit back in the middle and then finish hard at the end.”
Following an early German monopoly of golds, the Hungarians came to the fore as the quartet of Gabriella Szabo, Danuta Kozak, Anna Karasz and Ninetta Vad won the women’s K4 500m event.
They beat arch-rivals Germany with a time of 1:32.417.
An exciting battle for bronze saw Poland edge out Romania but the race belonged to Hungary, who continued their outstanding tradition in the race.
Veteran three-time Olympic champion Zoltan Kammerer, alongside teammate Tamas Szalai, then reigned supreme in the men’s K2 1000m, replicating the achievement of the women in the previous event, beating Germany to the title.
They clocked 3:11.681 to win gold ahead of Max Rendschmidt and Marcus Gross, while Belarusian pair Vitaliy Bialko and Raman Paitrushenka secured bronze.
In the final race of the session, Andrei Bahdanovich and brother Aliaksandr sealed Belarus’ first European Games gold with victory in the men’s C2 1000m.
The impressive display from the duo yielded an historic moment for the nation as they posted a time of 3:34.412, beating Russia’s Alexey Korovashkov and Ilya Pervukhin.
Germany managed another podium finish thanks to Peter Kretschmer and Michael Mueller.
“We prepared very well, we trained very hard and now we have tears in our eyes because this is just great,” Andrei said.
“This victory is for our family, our friends and all Belarusians everywhere.”
June 2015: Inaugural European Games opens in Baku with spectacular Opening Ceremony