France's Gargaud Chanut takes gold in men's canoe slalom
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Denis Gargaud Chanut stepped to the top of the podium and watched as the medal presenter made his way across the deck.
The French paddler never expected to earn a medal and now Tony Estanguet, the greatest slalom canoer in his country's history, was about to drape a gold around his neck.
''There was only one chance in one million that I could win a medal and that would already be good for the French legacy,'' Gargaud Chanut said after earning gold in men's slalom canoe at the Rio Olympics on Tuesday. ''That Tony was able to give the gold to me was an historical moment for both of us.''
Estanguet and Slovakia's Michal Martikan had dominated canoe slalom over the previous five Olympics, winning every gold since Atlanta in 1996. Estanguet captured gold three times and Martikan twice, adding two silver medals and a bronze.
But the Rio Games were without the power duo after Estanguet retired and Martikan failed to make the Slovakian teams.
That left the gate open for a new champion.
Great Britain's David Florence was expected to be the favorite, but never had much of a chance once in the final. He made a mistake early in his race and never recovered, finishing 10th.
Gargaud Chanut was an unlikely contender.
The 29-year-old had some strong finishes through the years, including a world championship in 2011, but had never competed in the Olympics.
Gargaud Chanut qualified third in Rio and put together a strong run in the finals, topping Slovakian Matej Benus' time by 0.85 seconds.
Gargaud Chanut let out a yell after setting his name atop the leaderboard at 94.17 seconds, but then had to wait; Spain's Ander Elosegi and German Sideris Tasiadis still had to make their runs.
Elosegi was three seconds slower and Tasiadis finished more than a second behind, sending Gargaud Chanut to top of the podium to meet Estanguet.
''It was difficult to wait for the race to finish,'' Gargaud Chanut said. ''I was already happy to be on the podium and after the Spanish went; I saw that I was silver, so the gold was just the cherry on the cake.''
Gargaud Chanut wasn't the only one to make history.
Benus, who led the finals until Gargaud Chanut's run, earned silver to stretch Slovakia's run of medals in men's slalom canoe to six straight Olympics.
Bronze medalist Takuya Haneda of Japan had an even bigger distinction: He became the first paddler from an Asian country to win an Olympic in canoe/kayak.
Haneda knew the significance while he was on the water, too.
He qualified fifth, so had to wait out four paddlers to see if his run of 97.44 seconds was good enough for a medal. When it was, Haneda broke down on his boat in the water, cupping hands to face as he openly wept for several minutes.
Several competitors paddled over to pat Haneda on the back as he cried, but the tears quickly turned to smiles.
''We have been working to be the first medalist from, of course, Japan and from Asia,'' he said through an interpreter. ''This is the first time for a Japanese, an Asian to win in a boat and for me it is great.''
American Casey Eichfield was seventh for his best finish in three Olympics.