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Sunday, October 1, 2000
Brunet finishes the bridesmaid again

By CHRIS STEVENSON -- SLAM! Sports


 PENRITH LAKES, Australia -- Caroline Brunet waited four years for this day.

 Then she had to wait another five hours, another five hours to have her heart cruelly broken at the Olympics again.

 The 31-year-old kayaker from Lac-Beauport, Que., the three-time reigning world champion, finished second in her big event at the Olympics, again.

 The gold medal, the last jewel she needed to complete her crown as the queen of kayaking, eluded her, again. Brunet, battling the wicked wind which delayed the regatta for five hours, finished second to Italy's Josefa Idem Guerrini, the bronze medalist from Atlanta.

 Australia's Katrin Borchert was third.

 "Did you see the movie Gladiator? I was a gladiator out there today," Brunet told Radio-Canada. "And I got killed."

 "I know she is going to be very disappointed," said Brunet's boyfriend, Norwegian paddler Knut Holmann, who won gold in the men's C-1 500m in the race immediately after Brunet's. "I know she wanted to win."

 An hour later, Brunet and partner Karen Furneaux of Waverley, N.S. finished fifth in the women's K-2 500m. Brunet got off to a good start in the blustery conditions and led at the 250-metre mark, ahead of Yugoslavia's Natasa Janic and Idem Guerrini.

 But Idem Guerrini took control in the second half of the race while Brunet posted only the third fastest time for the final 250 metres.

 "Everybody knows that if the water was calm like a mirror, she wins," said Maxime Boilard, the Lac-Beauport canoeist who was fourth in the C-1 500m, an outstanding result for the Olympic rookie. "It stinks. Everybody knows she's the best."

 Brunet said the athletes didn't want to race in the conditions, but were told they had to by the International Olympic Committee.

 It was a long day for all concerned as they held a regatta and A Perfect Storm, Part II, broke out.

 High winds at the International Regatta Centre caused whitecaps on the course and forced the postponement of the races for five hours.

 Officials delayed the start from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. local time Sunday with a window until 6 p.m. to get in the racing. They also left open the option of competing Monday if conditions did not improve.

 "I have permission from (IOC) President (Juan Antonio) Samaranch to begin Monday at 9 o'clock," said International Canoe Federation president Ulrich Feldhoff.

 The medal ceremonies, usually done after each race, were held at the conclusion of racing.

 The schedule was also condensed from two hours to an hour and 15 minutes and the order of races changed to accommodate Brunet and Borchert who were also to race in the K-2 500. They will race in the first and last events on the card.

 The forecast was for the high winds to continue through the afternoon. The winds were gusting up to 55 km/h at 9 a.m.

 The kayaks and canoes are fragile craft and it's a constant battle for competitors to keep their balance at the best of times.

 Racing was scheduled to start at 9 a.m. local time, but as a strong headwind whipped down the course and left at least one tent on site in tatters, authorities pushed the events back to 3 p.m.

 They later revised that and attempted to start the first race of the day, the men's K-1 500m, at noon, but wound up pulling the boats out of the water.

 It was so windy that minutes before the men's K-1 500m race was to start, the waves, whipped up by the wind, swamped an aluminum skiff. The pilot, with the bow way out of the water, was finally forced to abandon ship near shore.

 The kayakers, who were warming up at the time, took their boats out of the water.

 "It's like this here all the time," said one local volunteer, holding her hat down with a hand on top of her head. "That's what you get when you mountains over here and a lake and river over there."

 
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