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Slovakian twins carrying nation's hopes in London

Canoeing's most famous double act is headed back to the Olympics again, and the home country expects another victory.

It's OK. Peter and Pavol Hochschorner are used to it.

The twins are sporting icons in Slovakia after winning canoe slalom's C-2 event at the last three summer games, accounting for almost half of their country's gold medals since gaining independence from Czechoslovakia in 1993.

A fourth consecutive Olympic title in whitewater slalom would be an unprecedented feat, matching their record run of victories at world championships from 2008-2011. But breaking records just seems to come naturally for the fun-loving 32-year-old brothers from Bratislava.

"The pressure is similar to other years — we are used to it that as for more than 10 years, our country has expected the best results from us," Peter Hochschorner told The Associated Press. "That pressure helps us to concentrate and motivates us to make these results.

"But I'm not even thinking about the Olympics yet. I will only start thinking about it when I sit in the plane to London."

The Hochschorners traveled to London last year to take a closer look at the Lee Valley White Water Center course that will host the Olympic canoe slalom from July 29 to Aug. 2. They won the C-2 competition at a test event, and Peter Hochschorner wasn't very impressed by the 250-meter course, either.

"At Lee Valley, many parts of the course are the same and for me it's little bit boring," he said. "But I'm not saying it's not good for paddling. I think you can learn this course quickly."

Slovakia has ruled the whitewater waves since the turn of the century, making its paddlers the country's most successful sports stars. All seven of Slovakia's gold medals have come in canoe slalom and it has strong contenders for two of the other three disciplines raced at the Olympics.

Jana Dukatova beat reigning two-time Olympic champion Elena Kaliska in a fiercely competitive national trial and will be one of the favorites in the women's K-1. Michal Martikan also has won two Olympic golds, including in Beijing in 2008, and will resume his decade-long tussle with French rival Tony Estanguet — another double gold medalist — in the men's C-1.

Only now there's a new kid in town, threatening to break Slovakia's hold on the sport.

In Cardiff at the start of June, Britain's David Florence became the first man to win both C-1 and C-2 events at a World Cup meet. The high-quality field included the Hochschorner brothers.

The twin victories showed Britain's improvement in canoeing and kayaking in the run-up to the Games. The host country also could be a factor in the canoe sprint at Dorney Lake, west of London, which will be held after the rowing regatta on the same stretch of water.

To inject some excitement into a sport that is regularly overshadowed by its bigger brother, canoe sprint officials replaced the men's 500 meters with the 200. Races will be over in barely 30 seconds in an exhibition of raw power where athletes paddle at a rate of 180 strokes a minute.

"It will be explosive," Simon Toulson, secretary general of International Canoe Federation, told the AP. "That's the idea behind the 200; we wanted to showcase that canoeing and rowing are two very different sports."

Britain's Ed McKeever, nicknamed 'Usain Bolt on Water,' is expected to do well in the K-1 200, but the Germans are coming off dominant showings in recent World Cup events.

One of the top medal threats for Germany is 35-year-old Katrin Wagner-Augustin, who is competing in the kayak fours raced over 500 meters and is trying to win gold at a fourth straight Olympics after victories at Sydney (K-2 and K-4), Athens (K-4) and Beijing (K-4).

A 10-time world champion since 1997, Wagner-Augustin is one of Germany's most successful athletes.

In a sport where traditional Olympic powers United States, China and Russia are largely non-factors, Hungary is the other big force, with its raft of top-class paddlers treated like Hollywood celebrities back home.

Twelve medals are up for grabs in the canoe sprint, which is held from Aug. 6-11.

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Medal projections:

Sprint

Men

C1 200m

Gold: Ivan Shtyl, Russia

Silver: Alfonso Benavides, Spain

Bronze: Stefan Kiraj, Germany

C1 1000m

Gold: Attila Vajda, Hungary

Silver: Sebastian Brendel, Germany

Bronze: Mark Oldershaw, Canada

C2 1000m

Gold: Germany

Silver: Czech Republic

Bronze: Poland

K1 200m

Gold: Ed McKeezer, Britain

Silver: Piotr Siemionowski, Poland

Bronze: Cesar De Cesare, Ecuador

K1 1000m

Gold: Adam van Koeverden, Canada

Silver: Max Hoff, Germany

Bronze: Anders Gustafsson, Sweden

K2 200m

Gold: Yury Postrigay and Alexander Dyachenko, Russia

Silver: Sebastien Jouve and Arnaud Hybois, France

Bronze: Jonathan Schofield and Liam Heath, Britain

K2 1000m

Gold: Andreas Ihle and Martin Hollstein, Germany

Silver: Peter Gelle and Erik Vlcek, Slovakia

Bronze: Henrik Nilsson, Markus Oscarsson, Sweden

K4 1000m

Gold: Czech Republic

Silver: Germany

Bronze: Russia

Women

K1 200m

Gold: Natasa Douchev-Janics, Hungary

Silver: Lisa Carrington, New Zealand

Bronze: Marta Walczykiewicz, Poland

K1 500m

Gold: Danuta Kozak, Hungary

Silver: Nicole Reinhardt, Germany

Bronze: Henriette Engel Hansen, Denmark

K2 500m

Gold: Tina Dietze and Franziska Weber, Germany

Silver: Tamara Csipes and Gabriella Szabo, Hungary

Bronze: Beata Mikolajczyk and Karolina Naja, Poland

K4 500m

Gold: Germany

Silver: Hungary

Bronze: Belarus

Slalom

Men

C1

Gold: Tony Estanguet, France

Silver: Michal Martikan, Slovakia

Bronze: Nico Bettge, Germany

C2

Gold: Pavol Hochschorner and Peter Hochschorner, Slovakia

Silver: Denis Gargaud Chanut and Fabien Lefevre, France

Bronze: David Florence and Richard Hounslow, Britain

K1

Gold: Daniele Molmenti, Italy

Silver: Fabien Lefevre, France

Bronze: Mateusz Polaczyk, Poland

Women

K1

Gold: Jana Dukatova, Slovakia

Silver: Corinna Kuhnle, Austria

Bronze: Carole Bouzidi, France