RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Home country hero Isaquias Queiroz dos Santos remained on course to win three medals at this year’s Games on Thursday in a dramatic finish to the men’s C-1 200-metre race in which he claimed bronze.
Ukraine’s Iurii Cheban defended his gold medal title in the event, finishing the distance in 39.279 seconds, with Valentin Demyanenko of Azerbaijan clinching silver just 0.214 seconds behind.
Queiroz dos Santos, 22, beloved among fans at the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, got off to a rough start at the 200m distance and trailed his competitors for much of the race.
A daring bid in the last stretch sent him soaring over the finish line, two days after he took silver in the men’s C-1 1000m race.
Queiroz dos Santos reflected at a post-race press conference on his newfound celebrity status in Brazil, a reality to which he is slowly adapting.
“I’ve actually already felt a little bit of [what it’s like] being an idol in Brazil,” Queiroz dos Santos said via a translator.
He recalled how a walk to the gym on Wednesday turned into an amateur paparazzi session, as his coach had to drag him past adoring fans asking for photos.
“I’m ever so grateful to the people who came to cheer for us here at Lagoa,” Queiroz dos Santos said. “Whatever I have achieved I certainly did not do on my own.”
Queiroz dos Santos will compete on Friday in the men’s canoe double 1,000m heat.
In one of two men’s double events on Thursday, Spain added to its canoe sprint gold medal count, with Saul Craviotto and Cristian Toro claiming gold in the men’s K-2 200m race.
Like fellow countryman Marcus Walz, who took gold Tuesday in the men’s 1,000m kayak sprint, Toro, 24, said he was surprised to claim the top spot on the podium.
“To cross the line in first position is a dream for me,” said Toro. “I work[ed] very hard for being [in] this situation. I feel very proud for me and for my partner.”
Great Britain’s Liam Heath and Jon Schofield took silver in the event, while Lithuania’s Aurimas Lankas and Edvinas Ramanauskas came in third.
In the men’s K-2 1,000m event, Germany’s Max Rendschmidt and Marcus Gross held onto the lead of the race with an iron grip from the start, eventually claiming the gold in 3:10.781.
This victory came despite a late-race insurrection from Serbian duo Marko Tomicevic and Milenko Zoric, who finished with silver 0.188 seconds later. Australia’s Ken Wallace and Lachlan Tame came in third.
Editing by Clare Lovell and Nina Chestney