RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Hungarian kayaker Danuta Kozak won her third gold medal of the Games on Saturday, a rare feat that has only been matched by two canoe sprint athletes before her.
Kozak and teammates Gabriella Szabo, Tamara Csipes and Krisztina Fazekas-Zur won the women’s K-4 500-metre sprint in 1:31.482, ahead of silver medal-winning Germany and bronze-winning Belarus.
The victory is the latest in Hungary’s history of dominance in the sport. Hungary’s women won the event at the 2012 Games and took silver in the K-4 at the 2008, 2004 and 2000 Olympics.
Kozak is the first woman to win three gold medals in canoe sprint in a single Olympic Games and the third athlete in the sport overall.
If that feat sounds unbelievable, Kozak herself has yet to process it.
“I’m very happy,” Kozak said after the race. “I think I need some time until I believe it.”
Kozak is now one of her country’s most decorated Olympians, having won five gold medals and a silver. Her two other gold medals in Rio were in the women’s K-2 500m on Tuesday and K-1 500m on Thursday.
The race marked the second time at the Rio Games that Germany’s Franziska Weber took second to Kozak’s first, having claimed silver in the women’s K-2 500m on Tuesday.
“It’s amazing what Danuta [has] done here,” Weber said at a press conference after the race. “I have no words for it; it’s very impressive.”
A bronze medal was doubly sweet for Belarus, which claimed the same podium spot as in 2012. The women’s team came into the Games under added pressure, after their male counterparts were disqualified for doping violations.
That put more pressure on the women’s squad to succeed, according to K-4 women’s team member Marharyta Makhneva.
“We felt pressure on our shoulders and we knew that it was so much responsibility on us,” Makhneva said. “We did our best and it ended quite well.”
The sport was not immune to doping controversy as the Rio Games played out. A Moldovan bronze medalist was provisionally suspended from the Olympics Thursday after failing a doping test.
Editing by Nina Chestney