Ricarda Funk claimed the women's K1 canoe slalom title ©Getty Images

Germany’s Ricarda Funk chose the perfect stage to deliver the performance of a lifetime as she clinched her first Olympic gold medal with victory in the women’s K1 event at Tokyo 2020 today.

Funk, overlooked for selection for Rio 2016, had never won an individual title at the Olympics or World Championships prior to competing here but was among those tipped for glory, and she justified that status with a superb and error-free display.

The 29-year-old finished 1.13sec clear of reigning Olympic champion Maialen Chourraut of Spain, who revelled in earning a place on the podium at the age of 38.

Pre-event favourite Jessica Fox of Australia was forced to settle for bronze after she clocked the fastest time but amassed two penalties on her way down the course, which cost her four vital seconds.

The result prolongs her wait for an Olympic title and ends her pursuit of becoming the first slalom canoeist to win two individual medals at the Games.

Fox, the top qualifier in the heats and semi-finals, will have another shot at gold when she competes in the inaugural Olympic women’s C1 competition, which begins with heats tomorrow.

The German produced a superb performance en route to securing Olympic gold ©Getty Images
The German produced a superb performance en route to securing Olympic gold ©Getty Images

Funk appeared happy to play second fiddle to Fox in the lead-up to the event and her triumph will come as little surprise to those who have watched her closely on her path to the Games in the Japanese capital.

The German tackled the gates, surging water and heat with effortless poise and precision, eventually crossing the line in 105.50.

That put her ahead of Chourraut, the Rio 2016 gold medallist who had set the early pace after clocking 106.63.

All eyes were on Fox, the last to go, but she made two errors and was unable to recover.

The seven-time individual world champion ended 1.13 down on Funk, who joined her fellow medallists in jumping into the water after the conclusion of the competition.

"I was really sad after my non-selection in 2016, and I was fighting hard and kept fighting for five years, and now it’s a gold medal," Funk said.

"I knew I could do it, but it was like a puzzle, I had to bring all the pieces together. 

"I knew I had the ability."