Aug. 18 , ATHENS, Greece – Rebecca Giddens won a silver medal in whitewater slalom Wednesday, the first U.S. medal in Olympic canoe/kayak events since 1996.
She’s sharing her joy with those who’ve supported her along the way. “I feel like I should break it up into a ton of pieces and give it to everyone who has helped me get here so they can all have a piece of it,” she said.
Giddens (Green Bay, WI) captured her first Olympic medal after clean runs down the slalom course in the semifinals and finals. Her only trouble was a delay during her first run near gate 17 in the area of the course the athletes have nicknamed “Margaritaville.”
“I had a solid run, but I spun out a little and lost a few seconds. During the second run, I just thought ‘I have five seconds to make up’ and I didn’t worry about anyone else’s time,” she said.
Going into the finals, Giddens was in fourth place with a time of 107.56. She made up the seconds she needed to finish the contest in second place with a combined time of 214.62. Results from the semifinals carry over into the finals. Giddens was 4.59 seconds back from the gold medalist Elena Kaliska of Slovakia. Helen Reeves of Great Britain took home the bronze.
This medal is the first for canoe/kayak since Dana Chladek won a silver in the same event in 1996 and the third time in four Olympics that the women have medaled since whitewater slalom was brought back into the Olympic program in 1992, after a 20 year hiatus. Giddens finished seventh at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
Giddens shares this victory with her coach Eric Giddens, who is also her husband and a 1996 Olympian.
“I don’t feel like I’m in this for myself. I’m paddling for both of us, and it’s just as much mine as it is his,” she said.
The 26-year-old veteran kayaker lives and trains in San Diego, California. She employs a brutal cross-training schedule which includes flatwater paddling, surfing and traveling to the Kern River east of Bakersfield to paddle on whitewater. Giddens was the women’s K-1 World Champion in 2002. She also earned a silver medal in 1999 and a bronze in 2003 in World Championships competition. A five-time U.S. National Champion, she has earned four gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze medal in World Cup competition. Recently, she finished fourth at the World Cup in Prague, Czech Republic.
Giddens on Elena Kaliska’s gold medal:
“I’m really proud of Elena, and I could haven’t lost the gold to a better person.”
On the support from her husband and the team:
“I can hear Eric running by me down the course and hear his encouragement. The whole team is incredible … what an incredible family we have.”
On the sport of canoe/kayak:
“I love the sport. It’s one of those sports that’s tough to quit, and I’m just going to enjoy the moment.”
On being nervous for the race:
“I wasn’t any more nervous than I am for any other race. I just focused on the good things I have going on in my life. I gave all my nervousness to my family, and tried to treat it like any race and not focus on the outcome.”
On comparing this to Sydney:
“In Sydney, it was something new for me. But you can’t explain this to anyone. It’s just something you have to experience.”
On the Olympics:
“This is my ultimate dream to win a medal at the Olympic Games.”
On her delay in the “Margaritaville” area of the course:
“There is a different feature in the course around Margaritaville. The salt is kicking up and it’s foamy… I guess I just had a little too much fun in Margartiaville and stayed a little too long!”
On the slalom course:
“Whitewater is the reason I love paddling, and being on a course like that is pretty awesome.”
On her victory:
“I hope this gets our sport more exposure. It’s exciting, things can go right or wrong and it’s last minute decisions. There are so many different things you can do with kayaking. It would be good to see it get big in the United States… and we need more girls!”
On how this will help as she coaches young kayakers:
“I was shown a medal by [1992 slalom gold medalist] Joe Jacobi when I was really young, and it was very inspirational.”
Eric Giddens on Rebecca’s victory:
“I’m her husband first so I know how hard she works and how much she deserves this. As her coach, she’s so talented, so it’s easy. She’s a great girl as well as a terrific paddler.