It's a first for Togo

August 13, 2008
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BEIXIAOYING TOWN, China - Alexander Grimm of Germany won the gold medal yesterday in single kayak slalom, and an athlete from Togo took the bronze to win that country's first medal ever in a Summer Olympics.

Benjamin Boukpeti of Togo slammed his paddle in the frothy water to celebrate his and his country's accomplishment.

The crowd wildly cheered on Boukpeti as he neared the end of the whitewater course. He slapped hands with fans from his kayak, and his paddle snapped in half, although he hardly seemed to care.

"I really don't know yet what this quite represents," Boukpeti said though a translator.

Boukpeti kissed his fists before he thrust them into the air on the medal stand and hopped up and down several times before the medal was placed around his neck, his parents watching nearby.

"I tried to give people some entertainment," he said. "I tried to make them vibrate a little."

Boukpeti was the last competitor to negotiate his one-man kayak through the strategically placed gates, and the crowd was behind him from the start. His ride was clean and his combined time was 173.45 seconds.

He hugged and kissed his French mother and Togolese father after he crossed the finish line and said, "They showed me it was possible."

Boukpeti speaks French and lives in Toulouse, France. He was born in France and only visited Togo, in West Africa, once as a young boy. He developed through a program in France, but shoulder injuries ended his career there. The 27-year-old represented Togo when he competed in the 2004 Athens Games.

Grimm, ranked No. 3 in the world, won the gold medal in a combined time of 171.70 using a pair of clean, fast runs.

He ducked and weaved around the gates. Every flawless run - without even the tip of the paddle touching the gate - earned a "wonderful!" or two giant thumbs up on the scoreboard.

"I've got a massive party ahead of me," he said.

Fabien Lefevre of France won the silver. (AP)

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