(Reuters) - Gold medals in the sprint canoe events in Rio are up for grabs after a doping scandal barred some of the sport’s most dominant athletes from competing.
The International Canoe Federation (ICF) said this month that 21 athletes from three countries, including Belarus, Romania and Russia would be barred from competing in the Olympics for ICF doping violations.
The ban includes five Russian canoe sprinters, including 2012 Olympic champion Alexander Dyachenko, who claimed gold in the men’s K-2 200 metres.
Dan Henderson, a former sprint canoeist on the U.S. team and former Olympic commentator, told Reuters that some fresh faces are likely to emerge in the sprints.
“If people who are clean can stay clean and continue to prepare and improve, I think you will see some new faces on the podium in Rio,” said Henderson, who has coached for 27 years.
There are, however, also athletes looking to build dynasties.
Henderson said he expects Germany, which paddled away with eight medals in the slalom and sprint events at the 2012 Games, to be a dominant force this year.
Sebastian Brendel, who took gold in the men’s C-1 1000 metres at the London games, returns this year, along with Franziska Weber and Tina Dietze, who took gold the same year in the women’s K-2 500 metres.
Meanwhile, Hungary’s women’s sprint kayak squad will look to cement their dynasty after claiming a medal in all four women’s sprint kayak events in 2012, including golds in both the K-1 500 metres and K-4 500 metres.
Hungary had previously taken gold in the women’s K-2 500 metres and silver in the women’s K-4 500 metres at the 2008 Olympics.
Reporting By Amy Tennery; Editing by Andrew Both