By Kate Holton
DORNEY, England (Reuters) - The Hungarian national anthem reverberated around the Dorney Lake course on Wednesday as the eastern European country took the early honours against its fierce rival Germany in the Olympic canoe regatta.
Hungary, which alongside Germany has dominated the flatwater disciplines at recent Games, powered to gold in the men's K2 while the women's K4 won the final race of the day to deny Germany its fifth straight Olympic title.
Germany, which had started the first day of the Olympic canoe finals as favourite for at least two of the four events, won one gold, one silver and two bronzes.
"I cannot tell you how happy I am," a beaming Katalin Kovacs from the women's Hungarian K4 told reporters on the side of the lake after finally winning gold in the event to go with three Olympic silvers.
Kovacs won gold medals in K2 in Athens and Beijing.
"It's an incredible feeling when something you planned comes true." Her only regret, she added, was not being able to share the feeling of victory with her former crew mates from the silver-winning boats.
The sight of the eight women's fours powering for the line in the shortest and most dramatic race of the day, sending water splashing everywhere and roared on by over 20,000 fans, capped a fine first day of medals for a sport that rarely features in the public domain outside of the four-year Olympic cycle.
Gabriella Szabo of Hungary described the win as revenge over a German crew that included Katrin Wagner-Augustin who was in the hunt for her fifth Olympic gold medal.
Competing in what could be her last race, Germany's most decorated athlete in London said she accepted that the Hungarians were better. If she retires Wagner-Augustin will finish behind the former German great Birgit Fischer who won eight Olympic gold medals in canoeing.
"It was a good career, I have 10 gold medals in world championships and 4 gold medals in Olympics and one silver one bronze, it is great, I am very proud," she said. "We have won the silver, we haven't lost the gold.
AN AMAZING RACE
In the blue-riband event, Norway's Eirik Veras Larsen rolled back the years to add the 2012 Olympic gold to his 2004 title when he powered past the favourite, Canada's Adam van Koeverden, to win the kayak single 1,000 in a thrilling first race.
The result was a bitter blow for van Koeverden, Canada's face of the summer Games, who was seeking to atone for his disappointing showing in Beijing when he finished in eighth place having been dropped by the field.
"I will take positives from getting silver," he said, after briefly breaking away from reporters to hug his mother. "(But) if you think you're better than someone else because you beat them by 0.6 seconds, you're not. You're just luckier."
The silver for van Koeverden will add to the Canadian kayakers gold, silver and bronze he won in Athens and Beijing.
In the second final of the day, Germany took the top spot on the podium when Sebastian Brendel moved through the field to win the men's C1 final, beating Spain's David Cal Figueroa into second to add a silver medal to the gold he won in Athens and three silvers he already holds.
Canada's Mark Oldershaw, a close friend and training partner of van Koeverden, won the bronze, 64 years after his grandfather raced at the London Olympic Games in 1948. Oldershaw was continuing the family tradition under the watchful eye of his dad who along with two uncles also competed at the Olympics.
Hungary's Attila Vajda, who was looking to retain his Beijing title, finished sixth.
"Yes, last year I was world champion but that's life," he said. "Yesterday you were single, today you have a girlfriend."
The first two races then made way for the men's K2 double which was won by Hungary's Rudolf Dombi and Roland Kokeny who jostled for the lead from the start. They finished ahead of Portugal in second and Germany in third in the tightest race of the day.
(Additional reporting by Kylie MacLellan, Editing by Nigel Hunt; For all the latest Olympic news go to http://www.reuters.com/london-olympics-2012)