Canoeing - Seeing is believing for Slovakia's Martikan

BEIJING (Reuters) - Michal Martikan’s bitter memories prompted the Slovakian to wait until the Olympic gold medal was actually placed around his neck before accepting he had won it.

In Athens four years ago, Martikan joyfully celebrated what he thought was victory in the men’s canoe single but 20 minutes later found he had received a penalty after a late review that relegated him to second place by a narrow margin.

On Tuesday, he stayed quiet until he was called to stand on the gold medal podium in Beijing.

“This time you did not see me exploding with joy at the finish line. It did not bring me luck in Athens,” Martikan told reporters.

“After the Athens experience, I prefer to wait to actually receive the medal,” he said.

Britain’s David Florence won the silver medal and Robin Bell of Australia took the bronze.

Martikan won his first Olympic gold in 1996 at the age of 17 but lost out twice in a row to France’s Tony Estanguet and had to settle for silver in both 2000 and 2004.

His 1996 gold made him the first Olympic champion from Slovakia after it became independent from Czechoslovakia.

In 1995, at the age of 16, he became the youngest canoe slalom World Cup winner.

“I don’t want to finish. I hope I will have a chance to compete in the Olympics in London (in 2012),” said the 29-year-old.