Olympic champion Funk: My tearful path to canoe gold


On the morning of her final day in Tokyo, Ricarda Funk (30) suspected that it would be a very special day.

“I saw my trainer and we were – without prior consultation – in a partner look. That was cool. It was my first time wearing the red top. That was when I knew: now it’s going to start, ”she says.

It was a golden day: Olympic victory in canoe slalom!

The way there was difficult for the Augsburg resident by choice, who comes from Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler.

A path with a few doubts, fears – and with many tears.

In February 2020 she was with the national team in a six-week training camp in Australia. And in a really good mood!

Funk: “Corona had already announced itself. We just got back at the beginning of March. When we got home, the world was already upside down. I could no longer enter the Augsburg performance center, no longer use the ice canal. “

Only a week later the big shock: “The games have been postponed. The ground was pulled from under my feet. First I’m home to my parents, just needed some distance. It was my big dream because I had already missed the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. Suddenly the question arose whether the games of 2020 will take place at all in 2021 – and whether my qualification is still valid. “

Funk admits, “That was grueling. But I thought I fought so hard, I deserved it and I will give everything to be the one up there at the start. ” see the negatives positive. We now had 365 days more time to prepare for the big competition. “



Gold luck: Canoeist Ricarda Funk (30) shows the precious metal that she fished out of the ice channel in TokyoPhoto: Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP

Funk was never officially informed that her qualification would still apply, but she assumed it would. And so it was: Before the Olympics, she was third in the European Championship and paddled in second place at the World Cup in Leipzig.

Three weeks before the opening ceremony, she traveled to Japan to the training camp on the Olympic course: “The time before the competitions was not easy because of Corona: You had to be careful, contact with other athletes was kept as low as possible, a test every day did. You didn’t want to take any risks, you were incredibly afraid that you would be taken out of circulation after all. “

The worst, however: On July 14th, the unbelievable flood flooded the Ahr Valley, their home, destroyed several villages and claimed numerous lives.

Funk: “I got new photos and videos from home almost every hour. I couldn’t believe it and started crying. I just thought how unfair it was that I was living my dream here and that there was an absolute nightmare at home. “

But Funk had the most important competition of her life ahead of him: “I had to concentrate on my task. For one thing, I had to let my feelings run free. Because if I suppress it, it only costs energy. I looked for places for that. The hotel was practically the place where I could let my feelings run free. But as soon as I crossed the threshold of the shuttle bus to the track, I had to switch over to be able to concentrate one hundred percent on the training. “

What an incredible mental strain it must have been for the top athlete! Especially since the corona worries remained: “I was only happy when I was at the start line on my competition day. Then I knew, now it’s starting, now I’m really at the Olympics. “

In retrospect, she can’t really remember her gold run, but she can remember exactly what happened afterwards: “I had another interview at midnight. Then I went through the Olympic Village all by myself with the medal. I absorbed it all and tried to understand it all. 48 hours later I had to leave again. “

Back in Germany there was a lot of jubilation: “After the Olympics, I took a two-week break and had a lot of appointments. But I knew the season wasn’t over yet. “

The World Cup was still to come: “And when I start at the World Cup, I’ll do it right. I continued to train hard. I was able to rest in October. “

It went gold again in Bratislava (Slovakia). Funk laughs: “For me it was the cherry on the cake.”


Ricarda Funk came third in the election for Sportswoman of the Year

Ricarda Funk came third in the election for Sportswoman of the YearPhoto: picture alliance / dpa / dpa-Pool

At least in the wild water of the ice channel. But Ricarda Funk also cuts a fine figure in the spotlight and on the stages. Whether at the awarding of the Bavarian Sports Prize in the Munich State Chancellery, or at the sports gala in Baden-Baden on December 19th.

In the “Sportswoman of the Year” category, the gold canoeist took a strong third place behind defending champion Malaika Mihambo (long jump) and Aline Rotter-Focken (wrestling) and in front of Jessica von Bredow-Werndl (dressage) and Lisa Brennauer (track bike) – all of them five Olympic winners!

Ricarda Funk fought and suffered for a long time. Now finally she too is one of the gold elite of German sport!

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