It seemed as if New Zealand canoeing's glory days of the 1980s might never be repeated until 2003, when Ben Fouhy turned up seemingly from nowhere and won the world K1 1000 title in Gainesville, Georgia.
Ben who? It generally takes years for an athlete to climb to the top of a sport, but the 24-year-old Aucklander did it almost overnight.
Taumarunui-born Fouhy had a background in multi-sports events, with a preference for cycling.
In 2002 he dipped his toe into the waters of competitive canoeing, mainly at domestic level, but still his world title shocked nearly everyone, especially the world's other leading canoeists. It earned him the Halberg Award for Sportsman of the Year.
Fouhy also combined with Steven Ferguson (former paddling champion Ian Ferguson's son, and a former Olympic swimmer) to finish fourth in the K2 1000 at Gainesville.
All eyes turned to the 2004 Athens Olympics. Fouhy won the English K1 1000 title, so his lead-up form was good. At Athens he won his heat and paddled well in the final, but was edged out of the gold medal by Norwegian legend Eirik Larsen. Fouhy and Ferguson made the K2 1000 final, but finished last.
The Olympic silver medal, which would have delighted most competitors, was a disappointment to Fouhy, who for a time contemplated giving away his sport and turning to cycling. Finally he decided to have a crack at the canoeing at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.