John Gregory – @gregiej – Who would have thought? Today we saw the unexpected exits of such big names as Kuhnle, Martikan, Molmenti, Kauzer and Schubert. Astonishing really! The competition is hotting up as the qualification heats concluded and we progressed onto a very tough tight new course for the semi-finals on the Troja course in picturesque Prague.
In the second day of heats competition has again been tight as expected.
Lizzie Neave K1W heat winner (photo courtesy of Neil Proctor)
In K1W overall heat winner was Lizzie Neave (GBR) with a faultless 2nd run of 98.09 seconds to lead 1.92 ahead of Olympic champion Émilie Fer (FRA). Fer had set the pace in the 1st runs with her time of 100.01 seconds. 26 year old Neave had also been the heat winner this season at both the Cardiff and Seu World Cup races. In both cases she finished on the podium in the final. The enormous shock was the exit of Austria’s 26 year-old Corinna Kühnle who came to Prague as reigning World Champion and one of the favourites. She posted a 98.66 second time but incurred a 50 second penalty on the downstream gate 21. She then put down a 100.95 quick second run but again was awarded a 50 second penalty for downstream gate 16. It will be the first time we have not seen her in a semi-final or final for some time and opens the field up to other athletes. She quickly left the venue. 15 nations placed boats in the 30 places which qualify for the semi-final on Saturday. These include Great Britain, Australia, Slovakia, Germany, Australia and Germany who all secured all three boats in the semi-final. Sadly, Ana Satila (BRA) was placed in 32nd just outside qualification. Japan’s 21 year old Aki Yazawa did qualify for the semi-final out-performing her team mate Yuriko Takeshita who had been 4th at the Beijing Olympics.
In C2 overall heat winner was Jarolsav Volf & Ondřej Štěpánek with 102.37 seconds clear. They led a Czech team lock out occupying first, second and third in the first runs and holding onto first and second with Ladislav & Peter Skantar (SVK) stealing third place at the conclusion to second runs. Impressive. Notable too, that Volf & Štěpánek have announced their retirement following these Worlds. Good way to go out. The semi-final comprises 9 nations, all European, with Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Germany and Poland all qualifying three boats for the semi-final tomorrow. Charles Correa & Anderson Oliveira (BRA) placed 22nd and failed to make the cut.
This afternoon’s racing then stepped up a gear with the semi-finals in C1M and K1M. The commentator and grandstand crowd grew louder and louder as the semi-finals progressed. The course designed by Olympic Champion Thomas Schmidt from Germany was exceptionally tough and worthy of a World Championship standard test.
In the first semi-final, C1M, there was an audible gasp as Michal Martikán finished outside the top 10 and failed to make the cut into the final. Only once had he failed to be on the podium and few can recall a time when Martikán hasn’t been in the final. The overall winner of the semi-final was deservedly Sideris Tasiadis who looked on sensational form and finishes in 104.43 clear only 0.40 seconds ahead of reigning World champion Denis Gargaud Chanut from France. The C1M final is made up of 7 nations of which the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Slovakia each have two boats. There are no boats from outside Europe.
In the K1M semi-final that followed, we were dumb struck to see Molmenti, then Schubert and then Kauzer fail to make the cut for the final. This is significant because Daniele Molmenti (ITA) is the reigning Olympic and former Wold Champion, Peter Kauzer (SLO) is the double reigning World champion and Sebastian Schubert (GER) is the newly crowned 2013 World Cup champion who has shown such superb consistency all season. The overall semi-final winner was another German Hannes Aigner from Augsburg who delivered a confident 95.42 seconds clear and 0.71 seconds ahead of Mateusz Polaczyk from Poland. The K1M final will be made up of 8 nations including Germany and Czech Republic with two boats and one boat each from North & South America. The event ended with local heat winner Vavřinec Hradilek (CZE) awarded a 50 second penalty on gate 16. After video review the 50 second penalty was removed and he finished 5th. Rising star of the day for me was 20 year old Joe Clarke (GBR) who at his first senior World Championships goes into the final 6th after a confident 2nd in the heat. The final will contain two former World Champions in the form of Fabien Lefevre (USA) and Fabian Dörfler (GER)
So still to come from Troja
Saturday September 14th Semi-final C1W, final C1W, C1M & K1M. Teams C1W, C1M & K1M
Sunday September 15th K1W & C2 semi-final & final. Teams K1W & C2
I will be live tweeting @gregiej which you can follow on the www.sportscene.tv/liveresults page or search #slalomtroja. Slalom World were posting a rather interesting gate analysis http://www.slalomtroja.com/gates/ showing on which gates paddlers were incurring both 2 second and 50 second penalties.