BARCELONA, Spain -- They weren't the favorites. They were just two menfrom the United States, paddling a canoe through a torrent of water, trying toclaim a medal, any medal, at the 1992 Summer Olympics.
But yesterday, on the man-made course in La Seu d'Urgell, Joe Jacobi, aMaryland native who trains in North Carolina, and Scott Strausbaugh got morethan they had bargained for. They won the gold medal in the men's double canoeto close out the whitewater slalom competition.
"We came into this race feeling there were five to eight boats that couldwin," Strausbaugh said. "We knew if we went out there and had the best race wewere capable of, we would be in the medals. We never dreamed of a gold."
Jacobi and Strausbaugh won with a two-race combined time of 122.41seconds. Miroslav Simek and Jiri Rohan of Czechoslovakia were second in124.25. Franck Adisson and Wilfrid Forgues of France were third in 124.38.
Finishing fourth and missing the bronze by less than four seconds wereLecky Haller, a Gilman School graduate from Glencoe, Md., and Jamie McEwan, a1972 bronze medalist who lives in Lakeville, Conn.
In men's single kayak, Italy's Pierpaolo Ferrazzi won the gold, France'sSylvain Curinier took the silver and Germany's Jochen Lettmann took thebronze.
The Americans were unable to win a medal in the event as Eric Jackson ofBarnesville, Md., was 13th, Rich Weiss, of Steamboat Springs, Colo., was 16thand Scott Shipley of Poulsbo, Wash., was 27th.
Jacobi, who attended Winston Churchill High in Potomac, Md., with Olympicgold-medal swimmer Mike Barrowman, said his former classmate pushed him towarda gold.
"His swim in the 200 breaststroke was really inspiring," Jacobi said."That was really, really great, and then he sent me this letter through theelectric mail system. It talked about really staying focused and having fun.And that's what we have been doing."
After watching their teammate, Jon Lugbill, of Bethesda, Md., plummet fromfirst to fourth in the men's single canoe competition Saturday, Jacobi andStrausbaugh pushed through the gates on their two trips down the course.
"We had two clean runs with no touches, no penalties," said Strausbaugh,of Almond, N.C. "I think that's phenomenal for anyone out here, especially forus."
Jacobi and Strausbaugh are unsure whether they will continue to racetogether four more years. Dana Chladek, the bronze medalist in women's kayak,also was unclear about her plans in the sport. But if they all continue totrain, they may find themselves competing at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.
Yesterday, International Olympic Committee president Juan AntonioSamaranch said his organization "will do everything we can to ensure thatwhitewater canoeing be present at Atlanta. We have an 80 percent chance ofachieving this."
"I hope Mr. Samaranch caught some of the enthusiasm," Lugbill said. "It'sexciting for us that he was here. I think we have a real good shot to get into Atlanta."