Welcome back to the daily canoe slalom Olympic blog. A whole 4-year Olympic cycle and we are back here again.
Welcome to my 2016 contribution that is published on the International Canoe Federation (ICF) website. This is intended to provide the one-stop shop for everything you could possibly wish to know about canoe slalom at the Rio Olympics.
This weekend (April 27-28) at Lee Valley marks the exciting culmination of the GB Canoeing Canoe Slalom Selection Trials series 2013. Last year’s selection races were tremendously exciting at this wonderful Lee Valley White Water Centre in Herfordshire, which was the venue for the state of the art Olympic canoe slalom. You saw some of the paddlers including gold and silver medalists in C2 competing in the Olympics and after the first two selection events this final selection trial is looking very tight. The two days of selections decide the GB Canoeing team for the 2013 World Championships, World Cup series, European Championships and U23 championships.
More details are available from the GB Canoeing website, where you can find links to buy tickets, or through the home nation websites. Tickets will be available at the venue.
Good morning and welcome to the fabulous sunny Lee Valley Whitewater course for the biggest canoe slalom competition ever in the UK. Today starts 5 days of the most spectacular, exhilarating, tense and thrilling canoe slalom competition. Good luck to all of the paddlers and teams. Congratulations to the huge team behind the scenes for what they have already achieved in bringing this amazing competition to a reality and good luck over the next days. If you are new to canoe slalom sit back either at Lee Valley or at home in front of the TV and prepare to watch this most sensational sport. We hope it encourages you to pick up a paddle, coach or support this wonderful sport. For a preview of today’s competition see yesterday’s post.
Tonight’s post will include commentary on the outcome of today’s K1M and C1 heats and a preview of Monday’s heats in K1W and C2.
We are here, seven years after London was first awarded the Games.
Today a preview of what to expect tomorrow for the first day of canoe slalom starting at the fabulous world class Lee Valley whitewater centre. Today the course has been set for the heats. It has been designed by Thomas Schmidt from Germany (Sydney Olympic Champion) and Marianne Agulhon from France (1991 World K1W Team Champion) and once set will be approved by Jean Michel Prono the ICF Chief Judge. The Olympic athletes do not have the opportunity to practice on the course and so today there will be demonstration runs from other elite slalom paddlers in each of the classes. This will be eagerly watched by the 83 Olympic paddlers, their coaches and managers. They will then go back and review video of these demonstration runs to see what they can learn.
Tomorrow, on day 1 of the canoe slalom Olympic competition we have heats in two of the four classes; K1M and C1. This is good as for those paddlers who are doubling up for the C2 competition as they will have one day between their individual class heat and C2 heat. For the heats the paddlers have two separate timed runs on the course, the best of which, including penalties will form the ranking order for the heats. The field is then cut for the respective heats. In K1M there will be 22 starters with 15 qualifying for the semi-final. In C1 there are 17 starters and 12 qualifying for the semi-final. The athletes go of in reverse ICF World Ranking order. The current ICF number 1 athletes are K1M Peter Kauzer (Slovenia) and C1 David Florence (Great Britain) will be the last to go in their respective heats tomorrow.
The course is set and demonstrations runs have been completed, 22 gates, with six red and white upstream gates and considered to be 4 tough moves. This will be the same course for each of the four classes and both of their two runs. As the C1 paddlers are either left or right handed, the course designers will ensure that the course is balanced with a similar number of upstream breakout gates on the left side of the course and right as the paddler goes down. There will be a new course set after the heats for the semi-final and final.
An amazing stadium with seating for 12,000 spectators each day has been constructed on the front of house running all the way from just below the start spanning all the way around to the bend at the finish. This will create the most incredible atmosphere on this purpose built 300 metre Olympic whitewater at Lee Valley, described by David Florence as the toughest in the World. The heats will be fiercely competed amongst this World Class field.
In the K1M, Togo’s Benjamin Boukpeti who won bronze in Beijing is the only Olympic medallist in the K1M, however there are many previous Olympians, Ireland’s Eoin Rheinisch was 4th in Beijing, Austria’s Helmet Oblinger was 7th in Beijing as well as 4th in Sydney and Scott Parsons was 6th in Athens. In additional, there are two World Champions: Italy’s Daniele Molmenti and reigning World Champion Slovenia’s Peter Kauzer. These two paddlers have shown consistent form since the last Olympics and are both eager to capture an Olympic medal to add to their World Championship, World Cup and European Championship gold medals. Mateusz Polaczyk from Poland and Vavrinec Hradilek are both previous World Championship silver medallists. Great Britain has a strong history in K1M, with 2 previous Olympic silver medals and so look out too for local, Richard Houslow who took an emphatic win at the Great Britain team selection on this Lee Valley course in April.
In the C1, the heats include two former Olympic Champions, Michal Martikan from Slovakia (Atlanta & Beijing) and Tony Estanguet from France (Sydney & Athens). Between them, Michal and Tony have won Olympics, World Championships, World Cup and European Championships and are the favourites. However, their long reign will eventually come to an end as new C1 paddlers find a consistent winning form like former Junior World Champion Sideris Tasiadis from Germany who won the 2012 European Championships in Augsburg, Stanislav Jezek from Czech Republic winner of the 2011 World Cup or Great Britain’s David Florence Beijing Olympic silver medallist and 2009 World Cup winner.
There is lots of TV coverage available. The canoe slalom is also being recorded in HD and 3D. For those with a TV licence there is live comprehensive coverage on the BBC, starting at 1.30pm and again at 2.24pm on Sunday as well as further coverage on BBC3 and online channels. NBC also has coverage of canoe slalom. There will be coverage on Eurosport. The paddlers will go off at 2 minute and 30 second intervals.
First run of the C1 heat start at 1.30pm until 2.18pm.
First run of the K1M heat start at 2.24pm until 3.27pm.
Second run of the C1 heat start at 3.42pm until 4.30pm.
Second run of the K1M heat start at 4.36pm until 5.39pm.
Tomorrow come back for results and commentary from these heats and a preview of the K1W and C2 on Monday.
Since the £31 million Lee Valley Whitewater centre was completed in 2010 many of the athletes, together with their coaches and managers have spent much time familiarizing themselves with this stunning venue including a test event one year ago. The first heats start in only 4 days time.
The overall site is essentially split into four key areas: front of house which is where 12,000 spectators a day will be able to watch the canoe slalom heats, semi-finals or finals; the field of play which represents the slalom course on which the athletes are competing; the back of house where several hundred accredited officials, including the Games Maker volunteers will be busy ensuring a smooth running event and the mixed zone where the accredited media can come together with the athletes. Paul Valkovics, Venue General Manager for Lee Valley, in an interview for the ICF said that the purpose built venue “has been designed to give the athletes the best possible facilities to perform at their best and provide every spectator in the house a close up view of the action”.
In the back of house area, each of the 30 National Federations is provided with their own Team Tent covered area. Here the 83 athletes can relax with their own team to stretch, sleep, mentally prepare and talk to their coaches and managers. Each is furnished with tables chairs, mats and fridges. The Olympics are very different for these competitors given that with only one boat per class per nation they do not have the familiarity of a larger team with other competitors from their home nation and class as they would have at Worlds or World Cup races. Other facilities provided to the National Federations include changing facilities, provision for the athletes to get massages before and after their runs, catering and a boat repair facility available too if needed.
There is separate space for the athletes to hang their boats in slings and the whole venue is secure so that the teams and athletes can leave their equipment at the venue for the duration of the Games. The paddlers have a large 10,000 square metre lake on which to warm up in additional to a second shorter 160 metre intermediary/ warm up whitewater slalom course. When ready, a conveyor then carries the paddler in their boat from the lake up to the start pool holding area, where 5 large pumps provide 13 cubic litres of water a second.
The medical centre, equipment store, media and Technical Video Service are actually situated in the hill underneath the start pool! The teams are provided with TV monitors so that they can watch the live feed and review video of the runs. As discussed in judging yesterday and coaching on Monday video plays an important part in canoe slalom.
Come back tomorrow to learn what the ‘Ultimate Run’ may feel like. Comments @gregiej on Twitter.
Today’s post provides you some tips on how to get to the Lee Valley Whitewater Centre and what to expect when you get there – apart from the obvious incredible, exhilarating, tense, exciting canoe slalom competition from the best paddlers in the World!
The plus is that Lee Valley is out of London and away from other venues, that said there are still 12,000 spectators each day, plus athletes, managers, coaches and all the officials! We have never had a bigger canoe slalom event in the UK. Amazing to think 60,000 people (thereabouts) will see it up front from fabulous tiered stadium seating and millions and millions will see it on TV. Canoe Slalom has consistently had amongst the highest viewing figures of any Olympic sport in recent years. Great Britain’s David Florence, Beijing silver medallist has described Lee Valley as one of the toughest slalom courses in the World.
There will be a subsequent post on where to watch it on TV. There will be excellent live commentary of the race and a wonderful view of the whitewater course. A previous post explained the Competition Schedule and individual race timings and format.
To get to the Lee Valley Whitewater Centre it is first important to be aware that there is no spectator parking at or near the venue!!!! So it is down to public transport, walking or cycling. Free Games Travelcards have been provided for National Rail and public transport in London (zones 1-9) to and from the Cheshunt station. Cheshunt station is approximately a 25 minute walk through Lee Valley Regional Park. The access to the venue for spectators is through the Lee Valley Park and not from Station Road. There is cycle parking and also an accessible shuttle bus for those with impaired mobility. There is a special website www.london2012.com/travel. The course is just north of the M25 London orbital motorway between the towns of Waltham Cross and historic town of Waltham Abbey. There is a park and ride shuttle, however, LOCOG advise that this must have been booked in advance on their website. It is recommended to arrive two hours before the start of the competition, which begins at 1.30pm (i.e. so plan to arrive by 11.30am. There will be airport-style security screening to pass through for access to the venue. One soft sided bag is allowed per person up to 25 litres in size. Check www.london2012.com/security for a list of the restrictions in place. As mentioned in my ‘Canoe Slalom from Behind the Lens’ post there are some restrictions on the size and type of cameras, although smart phones are fine. There is no re-admission to the venue. Canoe Slalom is a water sport, and be aware we are in the UK, even in summer the weather can be unpredictable and it usually rains at slalom races! Come prepared for winter and you will be fine, with sun cream just in case! The stadium is outdoor and not covered.
The site is well prepared and tested. It was the first new purpose built Olympic venue to be completed and opened to the public. We held a full international test event in July 2011 and Great Britain team selection on the course in April. Congratulations to all those who inspired and delivered this stunning venue and to Canoe Manager, John MacLeod who has led the organisation of this event. Lots of local kids and adventurous souls have already had the opportunity to raft down the course, including British Junior team paddler, Zachary Franklin, holding the Olympic Torch. See the MailOnline for wonderful photos from the Torch on the Lee Valley course.
The site includes: toilets, accessible toilets, ticket resolution office, Games mobility, spectator medical, pushchair & wheelchair storage, a London 2012 shop, food and drink, information, lost and found, lift and cycle parking. Visit www.london2012.com for further or more accurate advice, including Blue Badge access information. Only Visa (debit, credit and prepaid) or cash can be used at the venue in recognition of Visa’s longstanding support of the Olympic Games. There is no ATM (cashpoint) at Lee Valley Whitewater Centre.
After the Olympics, the Lee Valley course reopens to the public in September and London will have an incredible legacy world class venue just outside London. This is something of which we once only dreamed. It is already confirmed as the venue for the ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships in 2015. We hope all those who enjoy the Olympic canoe slalom will come back to support the World’s, which will have approximately 50 nations and a much larger start list and include the C1W class.
Tomorrow’s post will look at the live race commentary and what to expect. Comments always welcome here or @gregiej on Twitter.
Last week saw the Junior & U23 canoe slalom World Championships wrap up in Wausau, Wisconsin, USA with the Czech Republic taking home 13 medals, followed by Australia and then France in the medal standings. Both the Czechs and Australian’s finished with 4 golds each. Today’s post looks at these Junior & U23 World’s as well as previous World’s to see what this can tell us about the prospects at Lee Valley starting in just over a week as well as future Olympics.
Three of the paddlers from this month’s Junior & U23 World’s are amongst the athletes competing at London2012. They are Jessica Fox(Australia), Casey Eichfeld (USA) and Caroline Queen (USA). These youngsters should not be discounted, Jessica Fox, now 18, was the Girls Youth Olympic K1 slalom champion in 2010, is double Junior K1W canoe slalom World Champion and has just been described by the ICF as “the most successful paddler at the [Wausau] championships”, winning 3 gold’s (K1W, C1W and C1Team), 22 year old Casey Eichfeld returns for his second Olympic Games, and although Caroline Queen is looking for her first podium finish at top level international canoe slalom she became the youngest woman to make the US Slalom National team at age 15.
I took a quick scan through the previous World’s results and UK Slalom Yearbooks. Of the British Olympic canoe slalom medallists: Gareth Marriott won Junior World’s in 1987; Paul Ratcliffe won Junior Pre-World’s in 1991 and Helen Reeves won Junior World’s in 1996. See a pattern? Lizzie Neave won a bronze team medal at the Junior World’s in 2004.
When Paul Ratcliffe was winning silver in Sydney, Lizzie Neave was already competing in Division 1 in the UK becoming K1W Junior under 14 championship winner and then by 2005, still as a junior (J18), she won the first of her three British National Championships. Similarly Richard Hounslow was the K1M Junior under 14 champion in 1995. So what is a good age to start? Well back in 2001 I did an interview for Canoe Kayak UK magazine with Janine Dickie who at the time had become the youngest paddler ever to reach Divison 1 at just 11 years of age! As suggested before Olympic Champion Tony Estanguet talks about starting to paddle at the age of 5 and by age 16, Michal Martikan had already won his first Senior World Champion medal.
This suggests that the current Junior World athletes are those from whom to expect Olympic medals in 5-10 years, so Rio in 2016, and then in either Istanbul, Tokyo or Madrid in 2020. Look out for the following winners from this year’s Junior World’s: KIW/C1W Jessica Fox (Australia); C1M Cedric Joly (France) and C2 Pavol Kavolkov & Artem Bogdanov (Russia). The most successful nations at Olympic canoe slalom competition so far are; France (14 medals – 4 gold), Slovakia (10 medals – 7 gold), Germany (9 medals – 4 gold), Czech Republic (7 medals – 2 gold) and Great Britain (5 medals – 4 silver & 1 bronze). Interesting to see that above France and Czech Republic are still strong.
Tomorrow’s post will give some practical tips to getting to Lee Valley and what to expect at this stunning new whitewater canoe slalom venue. Comments are welcome here or @gregiej on Twitter.
Olympics, World Championships & World Cup. Mirror mirror on the wall who is the greatest of them all? Who is the number one paddler in the World? Based on what: ICF ranking, Olympic Champion, World Champion, World Cup Champion or who has the most medals?
The Olympics is the greatest show on earth but this doesn’t translate necessarily to the best test of the top athletes in the World. I recall the Barcelona course at La Seu d’Urgell was heavily influenced by where the film cameras had mounted their cameras and the competitors and coaches were disappointed with the challenge of the course that was set. The current one boat per nation per class (for those that qualify) mean we have a very depleted World Class start list. The World Championship gold, silver and bronze medallist in C1 have failed to qualify for London 2012. The Olympic qualification also penalises those nations who have multiple athletes in the top 10 in an individual class. The Slovakian’s are the most successive canoe slalom nation in the last twenty years and as an illustration the Skantar brothers from Slovakia are absent due to the Hochschorner’s qualification.
The Olympics are held every four years and canoe slalom has been a permanent fixture of the Games since Barcelona in 1992. They do not yet include the C1W class but hopefully this is only a matter of time.
The World Championships now take place each year with the exception of Olympic year when there are no Senior World Championships. This changed in 2002, prior to which World’s were held every other year. The World’s in 2001 were cancelled. The field of athletes at World’s is the largest and they also including the fun and exhilarating Team Event Championships. World’s are also held for under 23 athletes (U23) and Juniors. I believe two athletes from the U23/ Junior World’s held in Wausau, USA this month are competing in London2012 those being Jessica Fox (Australia) and Caroline Queen (USA). Interesting to note that Jessica Fox was described by the ICF as the “most successful paddler at the championships”. Good warm-up! World’s includes the C1W class following its introduction in 2009.
The World Cup is a series of 5 races on different courses held during the summer season and to win the paddlers must demonstrate consistency through that season at a top international level. Contrary to my previous blog comment about Gareth Marriott, I note that he won the World Cup in C1 three times. The World Cup is also not in itself the best test of who is the best canoe slalom paddler in the World as paddlers will often miss World Cup races to prepare for Olympic or World Championships. This year illustrates the point; the current leaders in the 2012 World Cup races in C1 and C2, Alexander Slafkovsky (Slovakia) and Labarelle & Peschier (France) have not qualified for the Olympics while both Martikan and Hochschorners respectively have only competed in one of the three World Cup races so far in 2012. Six time World Cup champion from Slovakia, Elena Kaliska and double World Cup champions Ladislav & Peter Skantar also from Slovakia have failed to make the Olympics. Is the Olympic field then truly World class?
There are a few athletes who have amassed a giant haul of medals of all colours and in the different championships. This demonstrates exceptional consistency and mastery; Fox, Lugbill, Hearn, Jerulsami, Hilgertova, Kaliska, Martikan, Estanguet, Simek & Rohan and Hochschorners to name a few. The Hochschorners with multiple Olympic (3x), World Championship (5x), World Cup (10x) and European Championships (6x) titles as well as being ICF ranked number 1 are without doubt the most consistent and awarded athletes ever in the sport.
All said, there is fierce competition for the Olympic spots, those selected paddlers are proud to represent their nation and the Olympic showcase takes canoe slalom to billions of people around the World and inspires a next generation of World Champions, World Cup Champions and Olympic medallists. Back in the 80’s this is more than we could have dreamed. We will discuss the implications on funding and sponsorship tomorrow. Good luck to all those competing at Lee Valley for London2012.
Thank you for the more than a thousand views of his blog in the last two weeks. Comments please here or @gregiej on Twitter.