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FIRST AFRICAN STEPS/ 2008 OLYMPICS/ Benjamin Kudjow Boukpeti : A stunning Kayak in bronze

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By giving his country its first Olympic bronze medal, Benjamin Boukpeti became a sports legend in Togo in an unpopular sport in this West African nation, Canoë-Kayak. The river expert’s performance in Beijing came as a thunder strike in Lome. A first of its kind that was not forgotten. This bronze medal is really coming from far away. In fact, until June 2003 Benjamin Boukpeti was a potential candidate to be selected in the French national team, like his elder brother Olivier. But a very serious injury this not allow this to happen as he had to undergo a shoulder operation as he failed to recover in time for the preparations for the Olympics. With competition stiff, he saw his chances of representing France fading away. A big loss for bigger competitions, Benjamin? Certainly not. The double nationality he had because of his French mother and Togolese father gave him the opportunity to represent Togo. Hi first and only trip to Lome, was with his father when he was just two years old. That is if he has a retentive memory. This choice seemed the best for every body. Togo lacked a credible representation in terms of sports and the international Olympic Committee, from which Benjamin enjoyed a scholarship, hopes to encourage the globalization of every sports. Not withstanding whether Canoë Kayak has no existence in a country where football is king. In order to continue his preparations like a true professional, the athlete benefitted from French structures and from the friendship of his former partners, especially that of Benoît Peschier, 2004 Olympic Champions. At the same time, Benjamin joined a South African club. “Amadonsa – Donsa» which means in Zulu «Go ahead and paddle». This club which brings together champions from several countries took part in competitions around the world and did a formidable job in social sustenance in Townships. For his first Togolese outing in 2004, at the Athens Olympics, Benjamin did not do miracles and had to settle for a semi final and a fifteenth place finish in the general classification. The best was still to come. After four years of hard work, sweat, sacrifices and tears, he surprised his opponents who were not even expecting him at this level. If he had not forgotten the day and race, some how (he had the best time in the semis), the Togolese would have emerged as winner. It was the first African podium in this discipline that was admitted in the Olympics in 1936. PROFILE Benjamin Kudjow Boukpeti Born on the August 1981 inLagny-sur Marne, France 1m76, 73 kg Discipline : canoë-kayak Specialty: Slalom K- Records Olympics: 2004: 15; 2008: 3rd African Championships: 2008: 1st World Championships: 2008: 2nd inBratislava

Signature : Fayçal Chehat

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