Mallory Franklin became only the second British woman to win a medal in Olympic canoe slalom by taking silver in the C1 class in Tokyo.
The 27-year-old is a former world champion and multiple medallist at all levels but had been denied a shot at Olympic glory before the category was included for the first time here.
And Franklin took her chance superbly, posting a brilliant run and then watching all her rivals fail to overtake her until hot favourite Jessica Fox took to the water last.
The Australian, widely considered the best individual female paddler in history, had never managed an Olympic gold but she did not put a foot wrong.
Helen Reeves, who took bronze in the K1 in Athens in 2004, was Britain's only previous medallist.
Franklin, from Windsor, had qualified fastest from the heats but a mistake on an upstream gate during her semi-finals saw her through to the final in sixth.
The four paddlers before her all posted disappointing times but Franklin was smooth and fast from the start, with her only mistake coming when she picked up a two-second penalty for hitting gate 15.
She took gate 19, which had caught her out in the semi-finals, perfectly and crossed the line with the second fastest time of the competition, marginally outside her heat run.
Franklin told the BBC: "I've had a bit of a struggle in my finals this year so to be able to put down a run of that quality is amazing for me.
"It's amazing to have the medal and I think that can mean so much to people and I hope people see C1 women now as an event that is really high class, there was some amazing paddling."
Asked about her prospects for Paris in three years' time, Franklin added: "I've got kayak as well to think about and hopefully I'll be in Paris in both boats, but right now it's just about celebrating and getting home to do the kayak selection next weekend which is a bit crazy."