Host City: London, Great Britain
Venue(s): Eton Dorney, Windsor
Date Started: August 7, 2012
Date Finished: August 8, 2012
As holders of the last two Olympic titles, Hungarians Katalin Kovács and Natasa Douchev-Janics were the team to beat in the women’s K-2 500 at the 2012 Summer Olympics and each had an outstanding record in sprint canoeing. Douchev-Janics was also the winner of the K-1 500 at the 2004 Olympics and had a silver medal from the K-4 500 in 2008, but her record at the World Championships was even more impressive: twenty-two medals, eighteen of which were gold, since 2002. She had taken 2011 off while pregnant, but returned in full form the following season, winning the K-1 and K-2 500m at the 2012 European Championships. Astonishingly, however, Douchev-Janics’ record paled in comparison to her partner’s: Kovács had six Olympics medals, two gold and four silver, and forty medals, thirty-one of them gold, at the World Championships, spanning back to 1998. Her pace had not slowed in recent years either, as she had earned two gold medals at the most recent World Championships and three more at the 2011 European Championships. The German duo of Franziska Weber and Tina Dietze had shown some promise in recent years and were perhaps best poised to challenge their canoeing rivals, the Hungarians. They were runners-up in the K-2 500 at the most recent World Championships, losing to the Austrians, but had had a strong season in the lead up the Olympics, whereas the Austrian duo of Yvonne Schuring and Vicki Schwarz had waned somewhat.
A surprise came in the heats when the unknown Chinese team of [Wu Yanan] and Zhou Yu posted a time of over half a second faster than the Hungarians. The Chinese team were held back to a still-impressive third-fastest time in the semifinals, while the Hungarians were outclassed once again, this time by the Germans. In the finals, Weber and Dietze held nothing back and led through the entire race, with the Hungarians unable to match them at any point in the course. The Germans thus broke Kovács and Douchev-Janics’ streak in this event, getting their revenge on Kovács who, with her squad, had earned the Olympic K-4 500 title the day before, which had been held by the Germans since 1996. Hungary was forced to settle for sliver while Poland, paddled by Karolina Naja and Beata Mikołajczyk, edged out China for the bronze by 0.136 seconds. It was Naja’s first Olympic medal and a second for Mikołajczyk, who had been runner up in the event in 2008 alongside Aneta Pastuszka-Konieczna.