Australian Canoe Sprint pair Jean van der Westhuyzen and Thomas Green have won Gold in the Men’s Kayak Double 1000m. For all your Tokyo 2020 coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.
After racing out of their skins for an Olympic Best time of 3:08.773 in the heats, the Australian duo has continued its form for Gold in the final of the 1000m Double.
In a thrilling race, van der Westhuyzen and Green led from beginning to end, holding off the Germans who were right beside them all race.
The Australian pair found an extra gear in the final 100m at Sea Forest Waterway to stay ahead of Germany and the Czech Republic and secure Australia’s 16th gold medal of the Games. It is also Australia’s first gold medal in the event, following Ken Wallace and Lachlan Tame’s Bronze in Rio.
Two very different stories became one in 2020 when the pair joined forces for two Olympic selection events. They won the first event with a time of 3:12.27 and finished second in the other, just behind fellow Olympians Jordan Wood and Riley Fitzsimmons.
The pair of 22-year-olds had never competed internationally together as COVID-19 impacted competition over the last 18 months. In their first international meet, they posted an Olympic Best time in their first race and won Olympic Gold in their third.
Born in South Africa, van der Westhuyzen moved to Australia to pursue a dream of becoming a Canoe Sprint Olympian and today achieved that and more by becoming an Olympic champion.
Starting as a marathon paddler, van der Westhuyzen’s focus shifted solely to sprinting upon moving to Australia.
His teammate Green grew up surf lifesaving the coast of Queensland, kayaking with his siblings at Currumbin Creek Canoe Club at 10-years-old. He enjoyed the open water, winning the under 18 surf ski event at the Australian Surf Lifesaving Championships in 2017.
Green started flat-water paddling as a teenager and was winning international medals at his first meet, an Olympic Hopes Regatta in Poland.
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In the heats, van der Westhuyzen and Green posted an Olympic Best time, beating the time of 3:09.190 set by Italy at Atlanta in 1996.
The duo also crossed the line first in its semi-final, with a time of 3:17.077. Fellow Australians Fitzsimmons and Wood finished last in this race and were eliminated.
Their final race was somewhere in between with a time of 3:15.280.
The Olympic debutants also raced in the Men’s Kayak Single 1000m, van der Westhuyzen finished 11th, while Green raced in the A Final and finished seventh.
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