Canoe slalom ace Ricarda Funk shed tears for her late coach and also found warm words for the victims of devastating floods in her birth town after winning the first gold medal for Germany at the Tokyo Games on Tuesday.
Funk, 29, got K-1 gold at the Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre ahead of Spain’s Maialen Chourraut, who completed her medal collection with silver to go with 2016 gold and 2012 bronze.
Top favourite Jessica Fox, the multiple world champion from Australia, had to settle for bronze as four penalty seconds for touching gates made her miss the elusive gold again after 2016 bronze and 2012 silver.
Funk’s gold is her biggest career success after silver and bronze at world championships, and after failing to qualify in 2016 despite winning the World Cup.
There were plenty of emotions when she shed tears in the mixed zone as she paid tribute to her late coach Stefan Hentze who died in a car crash at the Rio Games.
“He is very deep in his heart and he has been with us everywhere, on the whole trip, in every competition and in every training. And he still gives me my tips.”
And her eyes also filled when she talked about her home town of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, the area hit hardest by floods two weeks ago which left around 170 people dead in western Germany.
“It was simply terrible to see the images that reached by hour by hour. I have also shed a few tears because what happened is unbelievable. I am just sending a lot of love home,” she said.
“All I can say is: the Ahrweiler region is strong and we will make it together.”
Funk got Germany’s first gold in Tokyo after three bronze in the opening days, and the nation hopes for another later Tuesday from the dressage team.
“It is unbelievable. It was my dream and it has become reality,” she told German broadcasters ARD. “The course was very tough and I knew what the others are capable of, especially Jess Fox. I never expected it.”
Fox will meanwhile have another go at her maiden Olympic gold when the women’s C-1 event makes its Games debut from Wednesday onwards.
“It will be a very special moment for all the C-1 girls to celebrate. I am just looking forward to being on this start line with all these girls,” Fox said.