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Hungary's canoe-kayak sprinters gearing up for Olympic challenge

06-21-2012 09:19 BJT Special Report:2012 London Olympic Games |

BUDAPEST, June 20 (Xinhua) -- There aren't many countries in the world where canoe-kayak sprinters are recognized when they walk down the street, but Hungary is one of them.

"Our champions are famous here and celebrated; it's one of our top sports," says Dr. Etele Barath, head of the Hungarian Canoe Federation.

"It's all about years and years of long tradition, great coaches down through the decades, and the huge amount of water we have inland," he said.

Hungary's canoeing teams have traditionally been among the strongest in the world, vying for domination of the Olympics medal tables with other European powerhouses Germany and Russia.

There is a long list of Olympic champions to inspire younger generations and an abundance of lakes and rivers, most notably the Danube and Tisza rivers, on which practice and training take place. Competition is fierce between clubs, and races can attract thousands of spectators. Around 40,000 people visited Szeged on the river Tisza, the spiritual home of canoeing in Hungary, for the Canoe Sprint World Championships in 2011.

Barath believes Hungary has six strong medal prospects in London. Two of those, Beijing Olympic champion Attila Vajda in the men's C-1 1000 meters canoe event, and Katalin Kovacs and Natasa Douchev-Janics in the women's K-2 500 meters kayak race, are pre-tournament favorites for gold.

Kovacs and Janics won gold in the K-2500m event in both Athens and Beijing and travel to London in search of a hat-trick. The 36 year-old Kovacs is optimistic with a hint of caution.

"The conditions will be completely different, mainly because of the weather which is really changeable. The direction of the wind turns every minute which is not ideal in this sport as it can completely change the dynamics of a race," she says.

"The temperature in London is also interesting. I like warm weather, high temperatures and sunshine, and well, London isn't really famous for such conditions."

Barath admits the English weather could present a challenge but he remains confident of a good team performance in London.

"The colder water can add seconds to course times and be a disadvantage to those coming from warmer climes but our athletes are professional and know how to deal with these conditions," he says.

Hungary has a remarkable pedigree in other Olympic water sports too. Their swimmers topped the medal table at the European Swimming Championships in May and include in their ranks gold medal contenders Laszlo Cseh and Katinka Hosszu, among others with high hopes of reaching the podium. The men's waterpolo team will also travel to London in search of a fourth gold medal in a row, while the women's team will also fancy their medal chances.

In recent Games, swimmers and canoe-kayak sprinters have provided the bulk of Hungary's Olympic medals, Barath says.

"We're hoping it will be another great Games for our water sports athletes," he added.

Editor:Sun Luying |Source: Xinhua

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