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Originally published Wednesday, August 8, 2012 at 6:35 AM

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Hungary's canoeists take upper hand at Olympics

For the first time in 20 years, Germany missed out.

AP Sports Writer

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WINDSOR, England —

For the first time in 20 years, Germany missed out.

The country's 500-meter K-4 team lost an Olympic final for the first time since the 1992 Barcelona Games, falling to a Hungarian quartet looking to spring an upset after second-place finishes at the last three Summer Games.

It also meant Hungary finished the first day of finals at the canoe sprint regatta with the upper hand over Germany in their head-to-head competition in the event's medals table.

"It's a very big victory for us," Hungary kayaker Gabriella Szabo said Wednesday through a translator. "In the last 20 years, no Hungarian team had won this four. It's a kind of revenge that we can finally win."

Hungary's other gold came in the men's 1,000-meter K-2, although there was a 20-second wait before the result of a photo-finish with a fast-finishing Portugal was relayed to the teams and the crowd of about 20,000 at Dorney Lake.

Germany claimed its first gold of the competition when European champion Sebastian Brendel won the 1,000-meter C-1, but another of its big hopes, Max Hoff, finished third in the K-1 final over the same distance.

That race was won by 36-year-old Norwegian Eirik Veras Larsen, who produced a trademark late surge to overhaul Adam van Koeverden of Canada and reclaim the title he won in 2004.

"If you think you're better than someone else because you beat them by 0.6 seconds, you're not," said Van Koeverden, one of Canada's leading gold-medal hopes of the games. "You're just luckier."

Germany is expected to bounce back in the other two finals days, Thursday and Saturday. But there will be no more medals for Katrin Wagner-Augustin.

She ended her Olympic career Wednesday, finishing with four golds, a silver and a bronze across four Summer Games.

It was a second straight day of disappointment for the 34-year-old kayaker after she failed to make the final of the 500-meter K-1 on Tuesday. On that occasion, she cried and had to be comforted by her husband by the side of the lake.

"Normally we start our sprint after 250 meters but it didn't work here," she said, then paused briefly. "That's life.

"It was a good career ... I'm proud."

Wagner-Augustin fell four short of fellow German great Birgit Fischer's haul of eight Olympic golds in canoe sprint. She still has the "B" final of the K-1 to come on Thursday before returning to Germany to compete in the national championships.

That result continued the theme of upset wins on a day of changing weather in Windsor, 15 miles west of London.

Van Koeverden and Hoff had been expected to contest for gold in the K-1 final but it was Larsen, the oldest man in the race, who came through fastest.

He returned to the sport for the 2011 season after retiring at the end of 2009, but plans to hang up his paddle again.

"The last two years has been an amazing journey," Larsen said. "The first year, 2011, was really hard. Getting back into training and getting beaten in training every day by guys I didn't want to get beaten by. But I knew I just had to get through it."

Brendel only made it to the London Games through final qualifying - he originally missed out after his paddle broke during the heats of last year's world championships in Szeged, Hungary.

But he took full advantage of his second chance by taking charge of the second 500 meters of his race to beat David Cal Figueroa of Spain by nearly a second. Cal has now won four Olympic silvers to go with his gold from the 2004 Athens Games in the C-1 1,000.

The bronze went to Mark Oldershaw of Canada, who is the fifth member of his family to compete at an Olympics. His grandfather, Bert, finished fifth in the 10,000 final at the London Olympic in 1948.

The most thrilling race was the K-2 1,000, where Portugal won its first ever medal in canoe sprint.

The silver of Fernando Pimenta and Emanuel Silva could easily have been gold, though - they finished only five-hundreths of a second behind Rudolf Dombi and Roland Kokeny of Hungary.

Martin Hollstein and Andreas Ihle took the bronze for Germany, meaning canoe sprint's top nation for the past two Olympics won a medal in all four of the day's finals.

But for the moment, it's Hungary out on top.

"There's always been a little fight, a little competition between Hungary and the Germans," Ihle said. "Some days you have a bad day. But I think we'll do better in the end."

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