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The kayak slalom king hopes his medal in Rio will inspire a new generation.
Three times Peter Kauzer had arrived at The Games with the belief a medal was a realistic ambition, and having finally achieved that goal at the third time of asking in Rio, he is hopeful it will prove an inspiration to a new generation of kayak slalom competitors in his native Slovenia.
Already, he says there is evidence that his electric run through the rapids in August to a silver medal has had an impact on the numbers taking up the sport back at home.
“I hope it will have a big impact,” he said. “Our sport, with relatively small financial input and how much effort you have to put in, is really hard. #people who try it, and kids, they love it. Now after 20 years our federation has a medal again at The Games.
“I talked with one coach from a club in Ljubljana [the Slovenian capital] and he said ‘you can feel the medal changed something’. We have more kids in the kayak summer school and, if some of them will stay in the sport that is good.
“At the end of the day, it is up to the kids and parents if they want to do it. Hopefully they will. That will show more in the next few years.”
Kauzer, who first took up the sport in 1990 at the behest of his father, has been at the top of his sport since 2005 when he won the first of five European titles - he also boasts two gold’s at the World Championships.
But Olympic medal glory was habitually the one that evaded him.
At Beijing in 2008, he was the fastest qualifier only to be denied a final spot by a semi-final error. Four years on, he topped semi-final qualifying only to finish sixth in the final showdown.
This summer, it was billed as his last-chance saloon only for him to miss out by one tenth of a second to rival Joe Clarke on the gold but with the consolation of a silver around his neck.
A few months on, Kauzer said: “I always aim for gold, and everyone was expecting it in the past. The media and public tore me apart after London, it was a crazy month, and nobody believed I could get a medal this time around.
“I knew if I did my best run, I could win. When somebody asked me what my goal was, I said ‘a gold medal’. Everybody thought I was crazy as in Slovenia only a few athletes say out lout what their goals were. #people were like ‘calm down dude!’
“But I don’t care as I am just happy I have the medal. Twice I blew it in Beijing and London.
“In life, you hit the rock bottom and then start thinking ‘OK, I need to change this’ and then start rebuilding. Since Beijing, I won everything there is to win apart from an Olympic medal. I have sliver, and now a medal at every major #event in our sport.
Despite breaking his medal duck in Rio, Kauzer has no plan to retire. Instead, his goal is on a third world title next September while, in the long-term, he wants to be one of the few Slovenians to qualify for a fourth Olympic Games despite competing against rivals like Clarke nearly a decade his junior.
Did you know?
If I wasn’t a kayaker, I would probably do biathlon. I love cross-country skiing and do a lot in my winter for my preparation. It is also really unpredictable; you have so many factors which can decide the outcome which is similar to my sport. I always watch it and never miss a race!
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