Michal Martikan has firmly established himself as one of the best C-1 paddlers of all time beginning with his arrival on the international scene at 16 as the youngest winner of a World Cup slalom canoeing event. Three months later, now 17 years old, Martikan bettered the score of defending champion Lukáš Pollert of the Czech Republic to become the first Olympic champion to represent independent Slovakia at the 1996 Olympics on the Ocoee River outside of Atlanta.
A veteran of four Olympics Games, Martikan has won more Olympic medals than any other individual, earning either a gold or silver medal in each of his Olympic appearances.
At the 2000 Sydney Games, Martikán entered as the favorite and registered the best score in the qualifying round, but was only in fifth place after the first run of the Finals. In the second run, he paddled a perfect course with the fastest time and moved up to the silver medal position behind Tony Estanguet of France. In 2004, Martikán again led the qualifying round and earned the highest score in the semifinals, which also served as the first run of the final. After the second run, it appeared that he had regained the Olympic title. However, after a video review referees awarded him two penalty seconds which pushed him12 hundredths of second behind Estanguet for another Silver finish. He returned to claim Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008.
Since 1995 he has competed and won a medal in every World Championship event, and is a winner of the canoe slalom ‘Grand Slam” with his first place finishes in the Olympics, World Championships, European Championships and World Cup. As a junior he won the Junior World Championships twice. As an adult Michal has won the World Championships four times and the Euro Championships twice.
Bill Endicott, former US Team Slalom Coach notes, “One big reason Martikan does so well is that he just takes more training runs than anyone else. I remember once in Athens that in the hour we had on the water our guys took five runs but he took nine!”
Former US Slalom Team member Kent Ford, who has served as the on-site announcer for each Olympic Games in which Michal has competed, notes “Martikán’s stamina for pre-race training runs is unmatched. And frequently this lands him on top of the podium. His quiet unassuming demeanor is understated for someone who is truly a national hero for Slovakia.”