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Canoe/Kayak

The ins and outs

Canoeist Fraker advances; ousted kayaker Parsons expected to call it quits

By Dan Gelston
Associated Press / August 12, 2008
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BEIXIAOYING TOWN, China - At 19, Benn Fraker's canoeing career is just taking off. Scott Parsons might be finished with his kayaking career at 29.

One American on the way up and another on the way out.

Fraker finished 10th yesterday and advanced to the slalom single canoe semifinals while Parsons was 20th in the single kayak and said he's likely done chasing an Olympic medal.

"I think this is it," Parsons said.

Fraker knows he's a long shot for gold, silver, or bronze today. He wanted some color on his body, so his black fingernails will have to work for now.

Fraker started painting his nails this summer simply because he was bored. He'll have a little less free time this week because he was one of the top 12 canoeists to move on out of a field of 16.

"I've just got to try and keep it spicy," he said. "You can only paddle for so many hours in a day. We spend the rest of the time in the afternoon just hanging out. It's just for fun."

Fraker had his entire immediate family cheering him on at his first Olympics.

Michal Martikan of Slovakia won the event, taking two qualifying runs down the foamy course without a penalty. He had the best combined time of 170.15 seconds.

Germany's Jan Benzien was second and Britain's David Florence was third. None of the top five finishers was hit with a penalty.

Tony Estanguet, the French flag-bearer at the opening ceremony, was sixth.

While Fraker advanced, Parsons saw his shot at a kayak medal end when he missed a gate at the end of what was a strong run. The two-time Olympian tried to make up some time after a penalty early in the run, and cut his turn too close to twist his kayak through the gate.

"There was no reason for me to be outside," he said.

Parsons was third after the first run and finished 20th. He made an official inquiry into the penalty, but it was denied.

Peter Kauzer of Slovenia posted the best combined time of 166.49 seconds. Fabien Lefevre of France was second and Italy's Daniele Molmenti was third.

Parsons was America's best hope for a whitewater medal in the K-1, or one-man kayak class, which historically has been dominated by Europeans. He might not attempt to qualify for another Olympics. Parsons feels he's finished after years of grueling training left him without even a shot at a medal.

"At times, I didn't necessarily think over the last four years I had made the right decision," he said. "It's a long process. But I don't regret anything. I had a great time."

Parsons said he would stick around for a while and watch other events.

While training, Parsons took leave from his job making prostheses for wounded war veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. He had perhaps the loudest cheering section at the Shunyi Rowing-Canoeing Park - one that fell silent in a hurry at the end.

"It's time to sacrifice for my girlfriend who's been doing so much for me for the last five years," Parsons said.

The course was built for the Olympics and the competitors liked the rapid, frothy conditions.

"I think that's the toughest race course we have in the world," said Britain's Campbell Walsh.

Walsh was 14th after the first kayak run, but a more composed run in his second effort pushed him to ninth place and a spot in the semis. The top 15 advanced out of a field of 21 and now he gets another shot to compete in today's final. Campbell won silver at Athens.

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