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Olympics: Röthenmund fastest in kayak heats

Zurich canoeist Mathias Röthenmund has made an unexpectedly strong start to his Olympic campaign, recording the fastest time overall in the men's individual kayak slalom heats.

This content was published on September 19, 2000 - 11:52

The 25-year-old completed both the qualifying runs without picking up any penalty points. His third place finish in the first run was followed by a second place finish in the last, making Röthenmund the fastest competitor overall.

The Swiss paddler was just 15 hundredths of a second quicker than Germany's Thomas Schmidt, but more than half a second ahead of the World number one, Paul Ratcliffe of Britain.

But qualifying times will count for nothing once the final gets underway on Wednesday. The only advantage Röthenmund will take from his performance on Tuesday will be the opportunity of starting after all the other opponents.

Röthenmund is all too aware that a good showing in the heats can be quickly forgotten in the finals. In this year's World Cup he also led the field in qualifying, but slipped back to fifth place in the final placings.

"We have a saying in canoeing," Röthenmund said after the heats. "A good qualifier is never as strong in the final."

But despite his caution the Swiss canoeist will take some inspiration from his first day of Olympic competition. "Everyone goes quicker in the final," he insisted, "but this has at least given me some self-confidence."

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