WALTHAM CROSS, England: Tony Estanguet of France won gold in the men's canoe slalom at the London Olympics Tuesday, regaining the title he won in 2000 and 2004 by just over a second in a rattling finish on the rapids.
Estanguet set a winning time of 97.06 seconds to edge Sideris Tasiadis of Germany, who was the last competitor down the course and just missed out on gold. Tasiadis claimed silver in 98.09.
Defending champion and 1996 gold medalist Michal Martikan of Slovakia took the bronze medal with 98.31 seconds in the first canoe-kayak final at the games.
Estanguet won back the C-1 title he held after the Sydney and Athens games, but lost to his longtime rival Martikan four years ago in Beijing.
The Frenchman set the quickest time with a perfect run, and with just two more competitors to come on the 23-gate artificial Lee Valley White Water Centre course that's been carved out of a field just north of London.
He easily overhauled Martikan's time, which looked like the mark to beat, and broke into a wide smile at the end.
Slovenia's Benjamin Savsek - the penultimate paddler - had a disastrous last run, picking up countless penalties to finish last of the eight paddlers in the final with 219.95.
Tasiadis, who qualified fastest in the semifinals, was behind Estanguet's time through most of the splits but suddenly found a surge of energy in the last few gates to take it right to the line.
He just missed out on gold, but still celebrated his first Olympic medal as if he'd won, pumping both arms in the air and leaning back in his canoe to look up at the sky.
Estanguet, who was still in his canoe when Tasiadis finished, hugged a teammate kneeling on the side of the water and threw up both arms in celebration. He floated across the water with the French flag held above his head.
His victory continues the dominance in canoe slalom he has shared with Martikan over the last 16 years. The pair have now won the last five Olympic titles.
Earlier Tuesday, top-ranked David Florence of Britain failed to qualify for the final, denying the home team a medal in one of the competitions it had targeted for a podium finish.
Florence finished 10th of 12 men in the semifinals after a sloppy, error-filled performance.