There was room for Martin Thomas to get on the canoe slalom podium this Monday in Tokyo when he was the last to start his final. The place to also follow in the wake of its glorious elders, Jacky Avril and Patrice Estanguet (bronze medalists in 1992 and 1996), then the golden Tony Estanguet (2000, 2004 and 2012) and Denis Gargaud (2016).
Maybe not the place to win, because the Slovenian Benjamin Savsek had achieved an almost perfect final round. But the other steps of the podium were within his reach.
Proof of this is that he went much faster in the semi-final, on the same course than the other medalists, the Czech Rohan and the German Tasiadis.
Until halfway through, Thomas believed in it, moreover, before allowing himself to be surprised by a capricious movement of water, a wave in which he remained stuck in the heart of a key figure of a complicated route.
I lacked responsiveness. It is a big technical error that cost me time and energy because it took a lot, afterward, to revive. “How to explain that he was not able to reproduce in the final what he had achieved so well in a semi-final round won on the same track? It’s much more complicated than it looks.
Thomas believes he “managed the time between the two heats very well” and attacked the Final with the right frame of mind. That is true. Afterward, reproducing two identical heats is quite simply impossible in slalom. “We know the vagaries of our discipline, explained Tony Estanguet after presenting their medals to the winners.
It is always necessary to adapt instantly to the movements of water which are never exactly the same and do not allow the same thing to be done again. What should be remembered for Martin is that he was ready on the right day and that he sailed here at his best, on a course that I found very demanding, and that’s to be greeted afterward. two very complicated years for the athletes. »
Tony Estanguet, three-time Olympic canoe champion I have never liked winning a semi-final. It is a difficult position to manage. It adds a little pressure and it’s very rare to win both.
Martin Thomas preferred to retain all the positive of his Tokyo experience, for his first Olympics at 31 years old.“On the finish line, there is bound to be a bit of disappointment in not seeing my name in one of the first three places on the scoreboard, but I gave everything in the final after having sailed very well in half. It is a chance to have lived these Games and to have believed in the medal until the end. Frankly, two years ago, I was far from imagining that possible. “
If Thomas says he was not under the pressure of his semi-final, that he was ” well in (his) boat “, unconsciously, she necessarily left a mark. In the departure portico, he heard with one ear, in spite of himself, the perfs of the others being scratched by understanding that it was “accessible”.
He had estimated at 2 seconds what he could win compared to his first run, which would have put him in the waters of Savsek, while Rohan finished at 3”71 and Tasiadis at 5”45 (! ) of the 2017 world champion. also read Martin Thomas, extreme kitesurfer “I never liked winning a semi-final,” explains Estanguet.
It is a difficult position to manage. It adds a little pressure and it’s very rare to win both. Me, it only happened once, in 2000, for my first Games in Sydney. But I preferred to be a little behind … “Except that in 2000, the title was still played by adding the two rounds, as for his great rival Michal Martikan during his last title in 2008, the last lift with the old formula. Since the classification is made on the only final round, never a winner of the half has won.
Gargaud finished 3rd in the semi-finals in 2016 and Estanguet 3rd in 2012. The same at the Worlds: Gargaud won the semi-finals in 2019 but it was Cédric Joly who won the title in the final. Tasiadis had been the best in the semi-finals in 2017 before finishing 6th … But as Estanguet concluded with a burst of laughter:
“Afterwards, we, unfortunately, cannot choose your place in the semi-final …”And it is important not to Thomas remake the film of the day with “ifs”. Tokyo proved to him that he was indeed one of the very best in his discipline and he can look ahead: “The future is Paris, the Olympics at home, the final goal of my career. “
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