Ladies kayak deserve their own day and post rather than rolling into one K1 post. Yesterday took a first look at the four different classes with K1M. Today – is K1W (pronounced kay-one-women), meaning a female athlete paddling a single one seater closed cockpit kayak. Again let’s look at the equipment, pros and cons and some top paddlers past and present to look out for.
Ladies (women’s) kayak are worthy of true recognition as they paddle the same 350cm kayaks as the K1M, on the same whitewater and through the same set of slalom gates. If you want to see the best use of whitewater watch the K1W. They have narrower shoulders and less muscle mass and shorter levers. Their paddles (blades as we call them) are invariably about 10cm shorter. Ladies thus rely less on brute strength and more on good technique and using the water to help them negotiate the gates. There have been a few exceptions Margit Messelhauser (1985 Augsburg World Champion) was incredibly strong and Liz Sharman had great speed and a longer paddle. Liz was the only slalom paddler I can recall to compete in the Olympics in sprint canoeing (Seoul 1988)! In his book ‘Every Second Counts’, Jimmy Jayes described that K1W were doing an average 70 strokes per minute in the gates and up to 80 strokes per minute at the start and finish, so less than the men, partly because they also tend to hang on to the stronger for a longer time. I recall going with Alan Edge, Rachel Crosbee (nee Fox), Karen Like (nee Davies), Lynn Simpson and Maria Francis to meet Professor Craig Sharpe at Northwick Park (BOMC) for the first ever physiology testing in canoe slalom. I remember that Karen had the least strength, lowest endurance, and least speed of the four, however, it should be noted she won the Bala Mill Prem the next weekend and has a K1W team bronze medal from the 1985 Worlds in Augsburg. That is not to say that women are not as physically fit as the men. At this level the K1W are also out for early morning whitewater training before a rest and a second session in the afternoon like the men.
There is a significant move by the International Canoe Federation (ICF) and national federation to gender equality. The number of female athletes in canoeing, including canoe slalom is increasing as well as in leadership roles within technical committees. As we will discuss tomorrow, a ladies category was introduced in C1 in 2009. This has not yet become an Olympic category and the C2 event is still a men’s class, but one expects that this will change in time too.
Great Britain has also shown consistency in K1W at the Worlds since 1979.
The GB World Championship individual K1W medallists are:
Liz Sharman (Silver 1979 Jonquiere, Gold 1983 Merano & Gold 1987 Bourg St Maurice), Jane Roderick (Silver 1983 Merano), Lynn Simpson (Gold 1995 Nottingham), Fiona Pennie (Silver 2006 Prague) and Lizzie Neave (Bronze 2009 La Seu d’Urgell).
GB Team K1W medallists are:
Liz Sharman, Jane Roderick & Susan Small (Silver 1981 Bala), Liz Sharman, Jane Roderick & Susan Garriock (Silver 1983 Merano), Liz Sharman, Gail Allen & Karen Davies (Bronze 1985 Augsburg), Maria Francis, Rachel Crosbee & Lyn Simpson (Bronze 1993 Mezzana), Lynn Simpson, Rachel Crosbee & Heather Corrie (Silver 1995 Nottingham & Bronze 1997 Tres Coroas), Heather Corrie, Rachel Crosbee & Amy Casson (Bronze 1999 La Seu d’Urgell), Helen Reeves, Laura Blakeman & Heather Corrie (Bronze 2002 Bourg St Maurice & bronze 2003 Augsburg), Heather Corrie, Kimberley Walsh & Laura Blakeman (Silver 2005 Penrith), Fiona Pennie, Laura Blakeman & Lizzie Neave (Bronze 2007 Foz do Iguacu) and Lizzie Neave, Louise Donnington & Laura Blakeman (Gold 2009 La Seu d’Urgell).
GB Olympic K1W medallist is:
Helen Reeves (Bronze 2004 Athens).
As you can see from the above Lizzie Neave already has one World Champions K1W team bronze and an individual bronze medal. As mentioned before, Lizzie became British K1M champion in 2005 as a junior showing us her true future potential. See my previous posts for my Punters Guide to Olympic Form and analysis of the paddlers from other nations to watch. Stepanka Hilgertova (Czech Republic) is a double Olympic champion and Corinna Kuhnle (Austria) is only the second K1W paddler to win two successive World Championships. Tomorrow’s post will look at the C1.