Czechs and Brits top the tables – Prague Worlds Day 4 review

John Gregory – @gregiej – The Czech team celebrated topping the table with the team results on the home World Championships with the British topping the table with two golds and a silver in the individual events.

Mallory Franklin celebrates taking the lead and silver in Prague Worlds (photo courtesy of Neil Proctor)

The tide has turned for the British in Prague as a kayak nation becomes a canoeing nation. They have long been recognised as a nation very strong in both kayak men and women (K1M & K1W) yet at these Worlds Great Britain has achieved something quite unique with senior World Championship titles in both C1M and C2. This adds to their London Olympic gold and silver in C2. Yesterday was defined as a day for their first C1M World Championship title Sunday in Prague they now have a C2 World Championship title too. To cap it off Mallory Franklin took a well-deserved silver in C1W and the British C2 team secured a beautifully orchestrated bronze in the C2 Team event.

In K1W, Émilie Fer (FRA) put down a confident run of 111.74 + 4 seconds to win by 2.20 over her French team-mate Nouria Newman in silver medal position with Jasmin Schornberg (GER) +4.21 seconds taking the bronze. In the end the final was considerably slower than the semi-final and no paddler managed to finish this extraordinarily tough course with less than 4 seconds of penalties.

Émilie Fer from France joined an elite group by holding concurrent Olympic and World Championships titles in K1W.

In the earlier semi-finals Štěpánka Hilgertová (CZE), Jessica Fox (AUS) and Ursa Kragelj (SLO) were unable to go quick enough to make the cut and heat winner Lizzie Neave (GBR) didn’t find her earlier form and finished a painful 11th just missing the final.

In C2 finals David Florence already C1M World Champion this weekend and his back-man Richard Hounslow put in a solid, controlled and crucially clear run in the final with 114.10 seconds. The noise levels rose to a crescendo with three Czech C2 crews coming down after them. It was an agonising wait for Florence & Hounslow but only Ladislav & Peter Skantar were also able to go clear and as it often the case it all came down to penalties. The silver medal went to Jaroslav Volf & Ondřej Štěpánek (CZE) 0.04 seconds or less than one stroke behind the British. It is a dramatic way for Volf & Štěpánek to exit as these Prague World’s were their last race. Ladislav & Peter Skantar took the bronze for Slovakia +2.01.

Volf & Stepanek bow out with silver in Prague (photo courtesy of Neil Proctor)

In the earlier semi-final the Pavol & Peter Hochschorner uncharacteristically seem to miss one key stroke which forced them to loop back for gate 10. It was evident that they immediately recognised it was all over.

It has been a tremendously exciting World Championships. The events was characterised by tight, exciting racing in a well-managed event. Congratulations to the Českého svazu kanoistiky organisers for battling back to clear the damage left by the flooding and pull of a great World Championship event. Daniel Stach and Miroslav Lenc did a great job with their live race commentary and whipping up the supporters in the stands.

A full Worlds review can be found here on the Sportscene website, including a round-up of the full 2013 slalom season. An interview with the Brazilian team is also in preparation and will follow soon.

A day of new Champions – Praha Worlds Day 3 review

John Gregory – @gregiej – While Friday will be remembered as a day of unexpected exits, Saturday became a day of celebrating new champions.

While the Czechs loudly celebrated their men Vavřinec Hradilek and Jiri Prskavek and while the Australian’s their golden girl Jessica Fox, the British humbly celebrated new heights in C1 paddling with a first ever gold in C1M and first ever silver in C1W at senior World Championships.

No.1 at last. British C1 paddler David Florence (photo courtesy of Neil Proctor)

For the British, the late Martyn Hedges won a bronze in C1M in Augsburg in the 1985 Worlds before Gareth Marriot won a bronze in Três Coroas in 1997; Great Britain had never had a C1M World Champion. Despite Gareth’s Olympic silver in ’92 and David Florence’s silver in 2012 it is the first major win. It was sweetened still as David was awarded as new World Champion by the sports legend Tony Estanguet. Mallory Franklin also won a tremendous first for British C1W with a silver medal to add to her gold in the 2013 U23 European Champions in Bourg St Maurice.

The day truly belonged to the Czech’s and Vavřinec who did not disappoint their home support with a phenomenal 94.52 seconds including a touch K1M winning run in Troja. The local Czech supporters were utterly deafening and the Czech commentary got faster and faster.

In C1W, 19 year old Jessica Fox from Australia maintained her excellent 2013 consistency and composure to win by a whopping 12.99 seconds on a not entirely perfect run with 6 seconds of penalties. The lead switched multiple times but as Fox made her way down the 1st and 2nd split gave a clear insight into who would likely take the title. Quite a year for the still young Fox, 2013 World Cup series champion, senior World Champion and U23 World Champion.

Golden Girl Jessica Fox new C1W World Champion (photo courtesy of Neil Proctor)

In C1M, 31 year old David Florence from Great Britain was one of the earlier paddlers down in the final and maintained his advantage despite a 2 second penalty. His run time of 100.53 + 2 seconds in penalties was the fastest C1 and more than 2 seconds faster than anyone else. It was an agonising wait for Florence as seven of the World’s top C1 paddlers made their way down including reigning World Champion Denis Gargaud Chanut (FRA) and then last Olympic silver medalist and 2013 World Cup series champion Sideris Tasiadis (GER).

Vavrinec Hradilek – the day belonged to the Czechs (photo courtesy of Neil Proctor)

In K1M, the day belonged to 26 year old Vavřinec Hradilek. Absolutely sensational and no doubt buoyed by the incredible noise from local support all the way down the course to the finish. Local 20 year old Jiři Prskavec (CZE) had taken the lead with 6 paddlers remaining in the final with 95.90 seconds clear. While he surrendered his lead to his older and more experienced team-mate both then had to wait for the remaining 4 paddlers to finish before there was an almighty cheer from both the stands and Czech team.

I was pleased to see Daniele Molmenti gain his revenge with an Italian win in K1M Team. Australia bagged the C1W Team gold as they should and Slovakia took the gold in C1M Team to round off an exciting scorcher of a day.

So still to come from Troja tomorrow Sunday September 15th are the K1W & C2 semi-final & finals followed by the K1W & C2 Team races. Both today’s winners Jessica Fox and David Florence will be back racing in K1W and C2 classes respectively. The classes are very tight and open with a multitude of paddlers capable of a win.

I will again be live tweeting @gregiej which you can follow on the page or search #slalomtroja. Slalom World are posting a rather interesting gate analysis showing on which gates paddlers were incurring both 2 second and 50 second penalties.

Photos courtesy of Neil Proctor Photography

A day of surprise exits – Praha Worlds Day 2 review

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 page or search #slalomtroja. Slalom World were posting a rather interesting gate analysis showing on which gates paddlers were incurring both 2 second and 50 second penalties.

Praha Worlds Day 1 review

John Gregory – @gregiej – We were treated to an impressive opening ceremony at Divaldo Hybernia theatre in Prague on Wednesday night. It was a great celebration of 100 years of Czech canoeing heritage. While we were in awe of the acrobats I am sure they think the same looking at the paddlers tackling the Troja whitewater.
I am working on a series of special features for and a full review of the World Championships will be posted on Monday. There are some great pictures and video interviews from today’s racing posted on the ICF website, Facebook pages and national association sites.
I am staying at Hotel Troja up the hill from the course together with many athletes including the team from Brazil. We Sportscene articles will include an article looking at the Brazilian team and hopefully the Japanese team. How these teams are evolving and what to expect from them as they each in turn prepare to host the Olympics.
New ICF rankings were posted after the last World Cup race and actually will be revised again next week after the completion of the World championships. Jessica Fox (AUS) is understandably now World ranked no.1 in C1W, Olympic and World Cup champion Émilie Fer (FRA) is now World no.1 in K1W, while Pierre Labarelle & Nicolas Peschier (FRA) are now World No.1 in C2 displacing Pavel and Peter Hochschorner (SVK). Etienne Daille (FRA) remains K1M ICF World ranked no.1 as does Tony Estanguet (FRA) in C1M even though he has retired! Anyone notice a strong French connection here?

Triple Olympic Champion Tony Estanguet in the flesh at Prague 2013

Today we had the qualification heats of K1M, C1M and C1W in that order.
In K1M overall heat winner was Vavřinec Hradilek with a sensationally quick first run of 84.69 seconds clear. 20 nations placed boats in the 40 places which qualify for the semi-final on Friday afternoon. These include Czech Republic, Germany, USA, Australia, Italy, Slovenia and France who all secured all three boats in the semi-final. I was really impressed to see Team USA with 19 year old Michal Smolen in 3rd, Fabien Lefevre in 7th and Richard Powell in 12th. Pedro Da Silva took the penultimate spot in the semi-final. Daniele Molmenti (ITA) pulled back from 37th after first runs and Etienne Daille (FRA) from 39th. Although Ben Hayward and John Hastings from Canada made the cut, former World Champion David Ford, 46, was just not quick enough.
In C1M overall heat winner was Benjamin Savšek (SLO) who had also been the heat winner of the World Cup final in Bratislava. 18 nations placed boats in the 30 places which qualify for the semi-final on Friday afternoon. These include Slovenia, Great Britain and Czech Republic who secured all three boats in the semi-final. Takuya Haneda (JPN) placed 12th. Mark Proctor (GBR) had a fast first run to be the early leader before slipping to 7th and then nailed an even more impressive 2nd run to finish second 1.44 behind Savšek’s first run of 91.58 seconds clear. Reigning World Champion Denis Gargaud Chanut had to pull out a strong second run to secure a place in the semi-final. Jan Benzien (GE) was unable to go clear and was the surprise exit at this stage.
In C1W overall heat winner was Kateřina Hošková (CZE) with a second run a mere 0.37 seconds quicker than Jessica Fox’s first run. 11 nations placed boats in the 20 places which qualify for the semi-final on Saturday morning. These included Great Britain, Germany and Australia who secured all three boats in the semi-final. Ana Satila, 17, from Brazil comfortably secured a spot in the semi-final. Great Britain placed all three C1W in the top 9.

So still to come from Troja
Friday September 13th Qualification heats K1W and C2. Semi-final C1M & K1M
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

Working on Sportscene articles in the Prague media centre
Working on Sportscene articles in the Prague media centre

I will be live tweeting @gregiej which you can follow on the page or search #slalomtroja