Gold Day for GB Canoeing in C2 – France win second gold in K1W

This evening the pictures should do the talking

David, Richard, Tim, Etienne, Peter & Pavol (photo courtesy of Sportscene)

Two British C2 crews have beaten the formidable favourites the Hochschorner’s. At the time when the Hochschorner’s won their last Olympic gold, Great Britain did not qualify a C2 crew for Beijing. Olympic Gold in canoe slalom has been a dream. A GB World Championship or Olympic gold medal in C2 has been a vision. Dreams can come true. Congratulations Tim, Etienne, David & Richard for delivering gold and silver for TeamGB, GBCanoeing and the sport of Canoe Slalom and canoeing in general. Phenominal achievement. London2012 at Lee Valley has left a spectacular legacy.

Tim & Etienne with gold and Richard and David with Olympic silver in C2 (photo courtesy of AE Photos http://www.aephotos.co.uk)

Here are links to the C2 finals and K1W finals.

Penalties played a significant part in both competitions today and in the ladies saw four World Champions fail to make the podium (Hilgertova, Schornberg, Dukatova & Kuhnle). Huge congratulations to Emilie Fer who secured France’s second Olympic canoe slalom gold medal at Lee Valley. 18 year old Jessica Fox from Australia took an inspiring silver medal and Spain’s Maialen Chorraut took bronze.

Jessica Fox Australia, Emilie Fer France & Maialen Chourraut (photo courtesy of Sportscene)

Tomorrow a round up of what this means to the Sport of Canoe Slalom in the UK and a tribute to the 800 people who made Lee Valley voted as the best Olympic venue, stunning TV and delivered Great Britain’s first Olympic gold medal

Tears of joy as TeamGB go Gold & Silver in C2 canoe slalom

I am in tears….. Lee Valley has erupted as TeamGB’s Olympic canoe slalom team has delivered Gold and Silver. The impact of this achievement to canoeing and canoe slalom in the UK cannot be understated. It is Great Britain’s first ever gold medal in canoe slalom and it’s first ever Olympic medal in C2. The triple Olympic champions the Hochschorner’s had to settle for a bronze after they have utterly dominated C2 for more than 10 years.

Congratulations to Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott on gold in a fastest C2 clear run of 106.41. They were the first boat down in the final and had to wait for the remaining 5 boats down before they knew if their 106.41 seconds was quick enough. As the final progressed they stayed top and after the Hochschorner’s posted 108.28 with a two second penalty the British spectators erupted knowing it was now certain gold for TeamGB. The last boat down GB’s David Florence and Richard Hounslow although up on both split times could only cross the line to take Olympic silver.

Congratulations to the whole team. The coaches Nick Smith and Mark Delaney, themselves both Olympians who joined the paddlers in the water to celebrate.

Buy a newspaper on August 3rd. It will be a collector’s item as a piece of Olympic and Team GB history was made today at Lee Valley.

And the Italian’s Went Wild!

Canoe Slalom Olympic Day 4 Review

Italy’s Daniele Molmenti Olympic Gold (phot courtesy of http://www.aephotos.co.uk)

The Italian’s among the 12,000 spectators, never known for being especially quiet, went absolutely wild before World No. 1 Slovenia’s Peter Kauzer had reached the final gates. Reigning World Champion Kauzer had won the semi-final with a 2 second penalty on gate 1 and then incurred a 2 second penalty on gate 3 in his final run, however, Kauzer’s challenges were not complete, on hitting gate 16 and then 22, the Italian’s began loudly celebrating realising that their Daniele Molmenti’s leading time of 93.43 was beyond the reach of Peter Kauzer. Daniele Molmenti, 27, himself on crossing the finish line on his final run knew he had pulled out the run of his life.  He punched the sky celebrating his Ultimate Run. He then had an agonizing wait for Poland’s Mateusz Polaczyk and then Peter Kauzer to complete their respective runs. The key to Molmenti’s astonishingly quick time may be the perfectly executed spin which he nailed twice in the gateline of gate 10, following the cross from the red and white upstream of gate 9. Molmenti is arguably the physically strongest paddler in canoe slalom; Olympic Gold now tops his already sparkling collection of World Champion Gold (2010), World Cup Gold (2010) and European Championship Golds (2009, 2011 & 2012). Many paddlers crossed high finding themselves up a foot above gate 10 where they span and wasted 1-3 seconds before they were clear of the poles to move on to the remaining gates. Michal Martikan will be the only paddler to have attempted and successfully pulled off gate 10 forwards, meaning without a spin to negotiate it.

Absolute delight for Daniele Molmenti (photo courtesy of Sportscene)

Vavrinec Hradilek, 25 from the Czech Republic had been the third down in the final posting a time of 94.78 clear, which made it the time for all other paddlers to beat to secure a medal. With the exception of Kauzer’s semi-final run of 96.02 seconds which had included a two second penalty all the medallists posted times faster than the semi-final runs on the same set of gates. In the end only Daniele Molmenti could go faster and clean to take a second Italian Olympic Gold medal in K1M. The first had been his Italian coach, Pierpaolo Ferrazzi in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

Germany picked up its second medal in two days with a bronze for Hannes Aigner, 23. Despite his early spin above gate 10, he was super tight on both the red and white upstreams of gates 13 and 16. He finished with 94.92 seconds clear 1.49 seconds down on Molmenti and again like Sideris Tasiadis in the C1 yesterday he will be another German paddler to watch in Rio in 2016 if his form and race experience continue.

Again it was not Great Britain’s day of Gold as Richard Hounslow failed to reach the final in his first Olympics.

Day 5 K1W and C2 Medals Day Preview

Thursday is final day of the 5 day canoe slalom Olympic competition where we have the semi-finals and finals of the C1 – Canadian single class and K1W – women’s single kayak class. They are on a different course than their heat on Monday but the same course as the previous semi-final and finals. The 15 remaining K1W paddlers and remaining 8 C2 boats start at two minute thirty second intervals for a single run semi-final. In the semi-finals they go in reverse order of their finish in Monday’s heat. In the K1W class only 10 qualify for the final and in C2 only 6.

Looking back to the C2 heats Gauthier Klauss & Matthieu Peche’s first run was the quickest, although the legendary Hochschorner brothers looked very comfortable with two calm, controlled and consistent runs to place them 2nd in the C2. The Chinese crew of Minghai Hu and Junrong Shu improved upon an already impressive first run. Both Great Britain C2 crews of Tim Baillie & Etienne Stott and David Florence & Richard Hounslow qualified for the semi-finals. David Florence and Richard Hounslow having not advanced in their single classes combine for the C2 where they are bronze medalists from the World Championships in 2010 and winners of the first 2012 World Cup race.

Watch out for the following C2s, Jaroslav Volf and Ondrej Stepanek from the Czech Republic who were Olympic bronze medalists in Athens and silver medalists in Beijing; Luka Bozic and Saso Taljat from Slovenia who were bronze medalists at the World Championships in 2009 and a final world for Peter and Pavol Hochschorner from Bratislava in Slovakia who have already become legendary within C2. They are the only athletes to have won four consecutive World Championship titles. They have won the World Cup series 10 times since 1999 and the European Championships 6 times. If they were to win gold at London2012 they would make history again as the only athletes to win four successive gold medals at the Olympic Games.

Looking back to the K1W heats, only three ladies posted times, with penalties under 100 seconds: Maialen Chourraut; Lizzie Neave and Maria Clara Giai Pron. Jessica Fox’s second run was outstanding with a 4th place finish in the heat from her second run ahead of double Olympic Champion, Hilgertova. Stepanka Hilgertova from the Czech Republic did what she needed to gain qualification in 5th place for her sixth consecutive Olympic Games. Lizzie Neave from Great Britain did two solid clear run performances, showing her home comfort with the course to finish second, with one of the fastest runs of the day. Maialen Chourraut, 2011 World Championship bronze medallist from Spain set by far the fastest run of the K1W including a 2 second penalty. Other potential favourites to watch remain, three recent World Champions, Austria’s Corinna Kuhnle, Germany’s Jasmin Schornberg and Slovakia’s Jana Dukatova.

Thursday Schedule:

  • Semi-final of the C2 starting at 1.30pm until 2pm. There will be 10 boats in the semi-final going in reverse order of their finish in the heat from Monday. The winner of the heat is last off. The semi-final is one run only.
  • Semi-final of the K1W starting at 2.12pm until 2.57pm. There will be 15 K1W boats in the semi-final going in reverse order of their finish in the heat from Monday.
  • Final run of C2 as decider for the Olympic medals starting at 3.18pm until 3.36pm. There will only be 6 C2 boats remaining for the final. Can Great Britain win Olympic gold or will Peter & Pavol Hochschorners land a historic 4th consecutive Olympic title?
  • Final run of the K1W as decider for the Olympic medals starting at 3.57pm until 4.26pm. There will only be 10 K1W boats remaining for the final.

After two days of finals, the Gold’s appear to be going to those nations who have previously won previous Olympics, suggesting strong potential for Slovakia, Czech Republic and Germany in K1W and Slovakia and French in C2 (The USA C2 boat did not qualify for the semi-final). The spectators appear to be getting louder each day and on Thursday there will be two London2012 Olympic Gold medals for the taking. If you can’t be there tune in for spectacular TV coverage. The 5 days of Olympic canoe slalom competition concludes with the C2 and K1W medal ceremony after the field of play is called clear. Then we all go home, some happy, some sad and prepare for Rio in 2016! Come back here Thursday night for the final medal standings for the K1W and C2.

Wenlock at Lee Valley with the Fire Service (photo courtesy of John Gregory)

Canoe Slalom Olympic Day 2 Review and Day 3 C1 Medals Day Preview

Fabulous news for the Great Britain Team with all 5 boats having qualified for the respective semi-finals. Solid start.

Gripping canoe slalom TV coverage (photo courtesy of Sportscene)

First, a review of Monday’s exciting C2 and K1W heats before a preview of what to expect on Tuesday for the semi-final and finals of the C1. If you have not been lucky enough to be among the 12,000 spectators at Lee Valley, the TV coverage is looking amazing with great camera angles, definition and slow motion replays.

In the second day of heats, Gauthier Klauss & Matthieu Peche’s first run was the quickest C2 in 96.98 clear, although the legendary Hochschorner brothers looked very comfortable with two calm, controlled and consistent runs to place them 2nd in the C2. The Chinese crew of Minghai Hu and Junrong Shu laid down an impressive first run on which they improved further finishing 3rd only 2 seconds behind the French winners. Both Great Britain C2 crews of Tim Baillie & Etienne Stott and David Florence & Richard Hounslow all qualified for the semi-finals in 4th & 7th respectively. This is a dramatic statement to the world for Great Britain to place two C2 crews in an Olympic semi-final, together with the French, Slovakian’s, both the Czech Republic boats, Poles, Slovenian’s, Australian and Chinese. The Russian bronze C2 medallist from Beijing, Mikhail Kuznetsov and Dmitry Larionov were unable to make it through the cut.

C2 heat results l2012.cm/Q4EGFf

 

London’s exciting Olympic canoe slalom venue at Lee Valley (photo courtesy of Sportscene)

In the women’s kayak class, only three ladies posted times, with penalties, under 100 seconds: Maialen Chourraut; Lizzie Neave and Maria Clara Giai Pron. Stepanka Hilgertova from the Czech Republic did what she needed to gain qualification in 5th place for her sixth consecutive Olympic Games. Twenty six years her junior, Jessica Fox’s second run was outstanding with a 4th place finish in the heat ahead of double Olympic Champion, Hilgertova. The 18 year old Australian is the reigning Junior World Champion and will win an Olympic medal, likely gold, the only question being at which Olympics? A very happy Lizzie Neave from Great Britain did two solid clear run performances, showing her home comfort with the course to finish second, with one of the fastest runs of the day. Maialen Chourraut, 2011 World Championship bronze medallist from Spain set by far the fastest run of the K1W with a clear 88.75 including a 2 second penalty for touching one gate. The three recent World Champions, Austria’s Corinna Kuhnle, Germany’s Jasmin Schornberg and Slovakia’s Jana Dukatova are all safely through to the semi-finals. Ana Satila, the 16 year old from Brazil narrowly missed qualification but looked absolutely delighted with her performance at her first Olympics.

K1W heat results l2012.cm/Q4R1cs

Overall, all the expected Olympic medallists and World Champions have made it through, although it is disappointed to see no USA paddlers in the semi-finals for London2012.

Germany’s Sideris Tasiadis, 4th in the C1 heats, and ready for the semi-finals on Tuesday (photo courtesy of Sportscene)

Tomorrow, on day 3 of the Olympic canoe slalom competition we have the first of the semi-finals and finals with the Canadian single, C1, class. There is a different course from the last two days of heats with 23 gates and with no opportunity for the paddlers to practice. The 12 remaining C1 paddlers start at two minute thirty second intervals for a single run semi-final, with only 8 qualifying for the final. In the semi-finals they go in reverse order of their finish in Sunday’s heat, with double Olympic Champion, Michal Martikan from Slovakia therefore last man down. Great Britain’s David Florence will be aiming to go one better than his silver medal in Beijing. He is strong enough to cope with three straight days of competition. He has been consistent in the World Cup races this year and is the current World ranked number 1 C1 paddler. On Sunday, Martikan, showed his class with an awe inspiring fast and clean second run. Also to look out for in C1, Slovenia’s Benjamin Savsek was very impressive in the heat finishing 2nd less than three tenths of a second behind Martikan. Qualifying well was also Takuya Haneda from Japan and former Junior World Champion Sideris Tasiadis from Germany. Several paddlers capable of medals including double Olympian arch rival to Martikan, France’s Tony Estanguet. It will be tense competition right down to the very last run. Hold on to your seat and scream at the TV or in the stands at Lee Valley.

First of the semi-finals with the C1 starting at 1.30pm until 2.06pm. Final run of the C1 as decider for the Olympic medals, starting at 3.06pm until 3.30pm. The day concludes ten minutes after the field of play is called clear with the C1 Olympic medal ceremony. Ends 3.50pm

Tomorrow come back for the final medal standings for the C1 and a preview of the K1M semi-final and finals which take place at Lee Valley on Wednesday.

Comments @gregiej on Twitter

 

Canoe Slalom Olympic Heats Day 1 Review and Day 2 Preview

The first day of exciting canoe slalom competition got underway at the packed out Lee Valley Whitewater centre, under mixed skies. First a review of the Men’s individual heats (K1M and C1), then below a preview of what to expect on Monday for the second day of canoe slalom back at the fabulous world class Lee Valley Whitewater Centre. I recommend International Canoe Federation and Sportscene Facebook pages and websites for some spectacular photographs.

Heats Day 1 (photo courtesy of Tony Tickle)

In the first day of heats, many competitors needed to pull out improved second runs to ensure qualification. No major shocks or upsets today from the heats, although disappointing to see Scott Parsons, USA who came 6th in Athens failing to make the first cut from the heats to the semi-finals. Great Britain’s David Florence and Richard Hounslow in C1 and K1M both successfully make it through the heats which comprise the best of two timed runs down the course including penalties.

In C1, double Olympic champion from Slovakia, Michal Martikan, stunned the 12,000 capacity crowd first with a 50 second on gate 12 on his first run and then when he needed it most with a characteristic awe inspiring clear second run in a sensational 90.56 seconds, taking gate 12 direct. His time would also have qualified in the K1M heat showing how close the run times are becoming on these tight technical whitewater courses. The second double Olympic champion in the field, Tony Estanguet of France also made it comfortably through picking up penalties on both runs, including gate 12.

In K1M, comfortable runs for most of the favourites. Richard Hounslow, GBR, had to pull a rabbit out of the hat to guarantee qualification in his second run. A few athletes, comfortable with the standard required tend not to go all out on a second run if they are in a comfortable position after first runs. Hannes Aigner from Germany stunned the crowd with the fastest run of the day in a lightning quick 83.49 seconds clear and over 3.58 seconds faster than second placed Samuel Hernanz from Spain. Over three seconds is a huge margin in canoe slalom especially on such a short course and he could still have won with on 2 second touch! The first six K1M boats were all clear, i.e. with no two second penalties.

Packed 12,000 seater stadium at Lee Valley before the rain! (photo courtesy of Craig Morris)

Monday, on day 2 of the canoe slalom Olympic competition we have heats in the remaining two Olympic classes; K1W and C2. Both the GB pair of Richard Hounslow and David Florence won qualification to the semi-final in their individual class and paddle Monday in the C2, where they have both shown excellent recent form. The course is the same as the heats from today (Sunday) with the paddlers going at 2 minute thirty second intervals. It will be interesting to see how the ladies kayak and big C2 boats cope with this tight technical course, especially the ‘S’ upstream gate 12 and the last of the downstream stagger gate 21, where many paddlers today have had a 2 second touch.

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 K1W there will be 21 starters with 15 qualifying for the semi-final. In C2 there are 14 starters and 10 qualifying for the semi-final on Thursday. The athletes go off in reverse ICF World Ranking order. The current ICF number 1 athletes are K1W Jana Dukatova (Slovakia) and C2 Pavol & Peter Hochschorner (Slovakia) will be the last to go in their respective heats on Monday.

In the K1W, favourites to look out for include: Stepanka Hilgertova from Czech Republic who cannot be discounted given her exceptional experience from being the only athlete to have competed in all six Olympics and Olympic Champion from both in Atlanta and Sydney as well as double World Champion from 1999 and 2003; reigning World Champion, Corinna Kuhnle from Austria; Maialen Chourraut from Spain who is the bronze medallist from the World Championships; Germany’s 2009 World Champion Jasmin Schornberg; Lizzie Neave from Great Britain who won a bronze medal at the World Championships in 2009; Jessica Fox from Australia, Youth Olympic champion who retained her Junior World Championship title this month is a little of an outsider and Jana Dukatova from Slovakia who is the twice silver medallist from World Championships.

In the C2, watch out for Jaroslav Volf and Ondrej Stepanek from the Czech Republic who were Olympic bronze medallists in Athens and silver medallists in Beijing; David Florence and Richard Hounslow bronze medallists from the World Championships in 2010; Mikhail Kuznetsov and Dmitry Larionov from Russia who were bronze medallists from Beijing; Luka Bozic and Saso Taljat from Slovenia who were bronze medallists at the World Championships in 2009 and finally Pavol and Peter Hochschorner from Bratislava in Slovakia who have already become legendary within C2. They are the only athletes to have won four consecutive World Championship titles. They have won the World Cup series 10 times since 1999 and the European Championships 6 times. If they were to win gold at London2012 they would make history again as the only athletes to win four successive gold medals at the Olympic Games. Understandably, they are the ICF number 1 athletes meaning they will be last boat to go from the start in the heats of the C2. Great Britain has a second C2 boat made up of Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott.

Great Britain’s David Florence with Tony Tickle (photo courtesy of Tony Tickle!)

Again, there is lots of TV or online coverage available. The canoe slalom is also being recorded in HD and 3D. Live comprehensive coverage on the BBC, Eurosport, NBC and the ICF website. The paddlers will go off at 2 minute and 30 second intervals.

  • First run of the C2 heat start at 1.30pm until 14.09pm.
  • First run of the K1W heat start at 2.12pm until 3.15pm.
  • Second run of the C2 heat starts at 3.42pm until 16.21pm.
  • Second run of the K1W heat start at 4.24pm until 5.27pm.

Come back late Monday night for results and commentary from these heats and a preview of the first day of the semi-final and finals for the C1 on Tuesday.

Comments @gregiej on Twitter

 

Mirror mirror on the wall………

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.

Jessica Fox in the non Olympic C1 class at the Cardiff World Cup race (phot courtesy of Michael Barnett)

Thank you for the more than a thousand views of his blog in the last two weeks. Comments please here or @gregiej on Twitter.

 

Athletes – who are they?

The athletes are really the very heart of the Olympics and today LOCOG finally published the official list of the paddlers for the canoe slalom. See London2012 website, ICF or BBC where you will find individual athlete profiles. Many are now in London preparing and settling into the Olympic village.

After yesterday’s post on the Competition Schedule for canoe slalom at Lee Valley it seems sensible today to provide some insights into the paddlers representing their nations in 11 days time. There is some change from the original qualification previously described. I have updated yesterday’s post accordingly. There will be:
22 K1M
21 K1W
17 C1
14 C2

So a couple of extra boats have gained qualification, including two C2 boats, one from Great Britain and one from the Czech Republic made up of a K1M and C1 paddler from the individual classes. This means that 30 nations will be represented in the Olympic canoe slalom event from North & South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia. The number of countries making up the respective classes are therefore as follows:
K1M – 22
K1W- 21
C1 – 17
C2 – 12

Here is my guide on the previous medallists, class by class:
In K1M:
Helmet Oblinger from Austria who was 4th in Sydney and 7th in Beijing;
Vavrinec Hradilek from Czech Republic who was World Championship silver medallist in 2010;
Eoin Rheinish from Ireland who was 4th in Beijing;
Daniele Molmenti from Italy who was the 2010 World Champion;
Mateusz Polaczyk from Poland who was World Championship silver medallist in 2011;
Peter Kauzer from Slovenia who is reigning World Champion. Peter is currently ranked ICF number 1 so will be the last K1M to go in the heat;
Benjamin Boukpeti from Togo who was Beijing Olympic bronze medallist;
Scott Parsons from USA who was 6th at the Athens Olympics.
In K1W:
Jessica Fox from Australia, Youth Olympic champion who retained her Junior World Championship title last week;
Corinna Kuhnle from Austria who is twice and reigning World Champion;
Stepanka Hilgertova from Czech Republic who was Olympic Champion both in Atlanta and Sydney as well as double World Champion from 1999 and 2003. She is the only canoe slalom athlete to have competed in all 6 Olympics;
Maialen Chourraut from Spain who is the bronze medallist from the World Championships;
Jasmin Schornberg from Germany who was the 2009 World Champion;
Lizzie Neave from Great Britain who won a bronze medal at the World Championships in 2009;
Jana Dukatova from Slovakia who is the twice silver medallist from World Championships. She was World Champion in 2006 and is current ICF number 1 athlete meaning she will be last to go from the start in the heats of the K1W.
In C1:
Stanislav Jezek from Czech Republic who won bronze at the 2006 World Championship in Prague;
Tony Estanguet from France who was Olympic Champion in Sydney & Athens and 3 time World Champion;
David Florence from Great Britain who was Olympic silver medallist in Beijing and ICF number 1 athlete meaning he will be last to go from the start in the heats of the C1;
Michal Martikan from Slovakia who has two Olympic titles from Atlanta and Beijing as well as being 4 time World Champion.
In C2:
Jaroslav Volf and Ondrej Stepanek from the Czech Republic who were Olympic bronze medallists in Athens and silver medallists in Beijing;
David Florence and Richard Hounslow bronze medallists from the World Championships in 2010;
Mikhail Kuznetsov and Dmitry Larionov from Russia who were bronze medallists from Beijing;
Luka Bozic and Saso Taljat from Slovenia who were bronze medallists at the World Championships in 2009;
Pavlov & Peter Hochschorner from Slovakia who have four consecutive World Championship titles and 3 consecutive Olympic titles to their name. They are the ICF number 1 athletes meaning they will be last boat to go from the start in the heats of the C2.

The list above does not detract from the 56 other athletes who have won qualification as the one boat per class for the Olympics. I will discuss the merits of this in tomorrow’s post. Canoe Slalom is also unpredictable enough that someone who has not medalled before at Olympics or World Championships can produce the ‘Ultimate Run’ that every one is wishing to attain; thinking of Benjamin Boukpeti in Beijing or Shaun Pearce winning the 1991 World Championships in Tacen. For the full list of London2012 canoe slalom athletes in the respective four classes click here.

20120717-230701.jpg

In the posts coming up this week we will take a look at the significance of the Olympics versus World Championships, World Cup and European Championships. We will also reflect on last week’s Junior and U23 World’s which have just wrapped up in Wausau, Wisconsin, USA. What implication does this have on London2012 or on future Olympics? Finally this week we will describe how funding and sponsorship have been at the heart of how the sport has evolved since Canoe Slalom become a permanent fixture in the Olympics on July 29th 1992 at La Seu d’Urgell.

I apologise sincerely for any errors in the above lists. Forgive me but please comment and correct me!

C2 – Canadian Doubles

C2 is the focus of today’s post. C2 is spectacular to watch as these big boats with two paddlers squeeze their way through narrow slalom gates on big whitewater. So far this week we have examined K1M, K1W and C1 respectively.  Today is C2 (pronounced see-two), meaning for the Olympics two male athletes kneeling in a two man closed cockpit canoe each with a single bladed paddle. Again let’s look at the equipment, pros and cons and some top paddlers past and present to look out for.

A peek inside Baillie & Stott’s C2 (photo courtesy of Michael Barnett)

The C2 combines great paddle reach, pivot turns combined with impressive forward power. Like the C1, the C2 paddlers kneels on pre-formed padded foam blocks inside the cockpit, sitting back on their heels supported by the foam block with straps across the knees to secure themselves. The International Canoe Federation again has specifications for the C2, which must be 410cm long, 75cm wide and weigh not less than 15kg. It is important for the C2 crew to spend considerable time in their boat on whitewater so they have good communication and coordination between them. This is essential to successfully roll a C2!

One C2 paddler will paddle on the left and one on the right and the two cockpits are not always directly in line but can be slightly offset towards the left or right of the boat. Two Great Britain C2 crews have gained selection for the London Olympics; David Florence & Richard Hounslow and Tim Baillie & Etienne Stott. David kneels in the front paddling on the right as he does in his C1 with Richard kneeling in the back paddling on the left. Tim similarly paddles in the front on the right with Etienne paddling in the back on the left. The front man in the C2 can also paddle on the cross bow meaning at that moment both paddlers have their paddler in the water on the same side. Watch out to see if a C2 crew ever switch their hands simultaneously. This is relatively rare but a few paddlers have experimented with it.

Triple Olympian & World Champion Peter & Pavol Hochschorner from Slovakia at the Cardiff World Cup race (photo courtesy of Michael Barnett)

International C2 at World’s and Olympics has been dominated by a select group of nations; France, Switzerland, Germany, USA, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia (& former Czechoslovakia). Pavol and Peter Hochschorner from Bratislava in Slovakia have already become legendary within C2. They are the only athletes to have won four consecutive World Championship titles. They have won the World Cup series 10 times since 1999 and the European Championships 6 times.  If they were to win gold at London2012 they would make history again as the only athletes to win four successive gold medals at the Olympic Games. I encourage you to read the article in the 2012 Planet Canoe on the ICF website.

The GB World Championship individual C2 medallists are:

David Florence & Richard Hounslow (Bronze 2010 Tacen)

GB Team C2 medallists are:

Eric Jamieson, Robin Williams, Michael Smith, Andrew Smith, Robert Joce & Robert Owen (Bronze 1983 Meran), Tim Baillie, Etienne Stott, David Florence, Richard Hounslow, Dan Goddard & Colin Radmore (Bronze 2009 La Seu d’Urgell) and David Florence, Richard Hounslow, Tim Baillie, Etienne Stott, Rhys Davies & Matthew Lister (Bronze 2011 Bratislava)

There has never yet been a GB Olympic C2 medal, although Smith & Bowman came fourth in Sydney in 2000, missing out on a medal by less than half a second.

I have departed from the review of the previous classes to include reference to the European Canoe Slalom Championships. Why? Because this year, Great Britain has achieved something for the very first time in the history of the sport, a gold medal in C2, with a Team C2 Gold in Augsburg at the European Championships.

David Florence & Richard Hounslow – Cardiff World Cup C2 gold medallists focussed on the gate at GB Selection (photo courtesy of Michael Barnett)

Well done to David, Richard, Tim, Etienne and Adam Burgess and Greg Pitt for achieving this GB first. It followed a C2 Team silver in Nottingham in 2009 and a C2 Team bronze in Bratislava the following year, with Tim, Etienne, David, Richard, Dan Goddard and Colin Radmore. GB C2 is reaching new heights. Added to this David & Richard then won the first ever individual C2 Gold at a World Cup race with their win last month in Cardiff. Impeccable timing guys!

We currently have two C2 boats ranked in the ICF World Ranking top 10. Amazing! I hope you have tickets for August 2nd at Lee Valley.

Tim Baillie & Etienne Stott ICF World Ranked No. 6 C2 crew at Cardiff World Cup (photo courtesy of Michael Barnett)

Tomorrow’s post will describe the terms used in canoe slalom and techniques used.

Punters Guide to Olympic Form

I have been challenged to explain what exactly does the Punters Guide mean exactly. Well it appears to be more of a UK term around placing a bet on a race, usually horse racing but there are similar references to golf and several other sports. There is also some interesting nostalgic reference to this Punters Guide term. Penny Briscoe and I wrote a Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Great Britain Canoe Slalom Team guide including the …Punters Guide to Olympic Form…

Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Great Britain Canoe Slalom Team

This contains some interesting perspective too in reference to these current London Olympics. Amongst our ‘Punters Guide to Olympic Form’ written in the year 2000, we identified Stepanka Hilgertova, Paul Ratcliffe, Michal Martikan, Tony Estanguet and Pavol & Peter Hochschorner as possible medal contenders.

Punters Guide to Olympic Form written in 2000

Well, we hope you followed our advice as Stepanka Hilgertova in K1W and Pavol and Peter Hochschorner in C2 won gold in Sydney! Even more impressive to appreciate is that we expect them to be racing in the 2012 Olympics, twelve years after Sydney in 22 days time. I note too that two of the GB Team coaches from 2000 will be doing live race commentary at Lee Valley and several of the Team GB Sydney Olympic paddlers are themselves coaching the GB Olympic team paddlers, including the Sydney Olympic silver medallist Paul Ratcliffe.

So enough of history, what can we predict for London 2012? The Hochschorners (Slovakia) will be aiming for a historic forth consecutive Olympic gold in C2, having won in Sydney, Athens and Beijing. Can’t write them off as they enter Lee Valley for the heat on July 30th as reigning Olympic Champions, World Champions and at the end of June 2012 ranked 1 by the International Canoe Federation (ICF). There are 12 other C2 crews competing and capable of a win. I recommend the Planet Canoe Facebook page where you will find an interesting interview with Pavol and Peter about their ‘quest’ for a 4th successive gold. fb.me/AYl4QRXV

In other classes, Michal Martikan from Slovakia and Tony Estanguet from France have been trading Olympic & World Championship gold and silver medals. Michal first won Olympic gold in Atlanta, Tony won gold in Athens then Michal again won gold in Beijing. As an indicator to the competition for Olympic places, the C1 2011 World Championship gold, silver and bronze medallists in C1 have not qualified for London2012! Great Britian’s C1 paddler, David Florence enters as the ICF rank number 1 and will be the last C1 off the start in the heat on July 29th.  There are several Mens and Womens kayak paddlers in strong contention for an Olympic medal. In K1M, Peter Kauzer from Slovenia is current World Champion and ICF ranked 1. Togo paddler Benjamin Boukpeti is the only previous Mens K1 Olympic medallist in the field. Italian Daniele Molmenti, coached by 1992 Olympic champion Pierpaolo Ferrazzi, was a previous World Champion from Tacen in 2010. In K1W, as mentioned above Stepanka has remarkable race consistency under pressure. Jana Dukatova from Slovakia, which is actually the most successful Olympic canoe slalom nation, was the 2011 World Championship silver medallist and current ICF ranked number 1 with Corinna Kuhnle from Austria is the reigning World Champion. It is impossible not to highlight Australian Jessica Fox, the only just 18 year old former Singapore 2000 Youth Olympic champion. Those from the olden days of canoe slalom can’t help to recognise the name Fox. Jessica’s parents, Richard and Myriam won a staggering 18 World Championship gold medals. If Jessica doesn’t medal in London, you would not bet against her to win gold in one or more of the next 4 Olympics!!

The Sportscene website includes their January 2012 prediction although not all the paddlers they include have qualified. They do unsurprisingly pick out Michal Martikan, Peter Kauzer, Jana Dukatova and Pavol & Peter Hochschorner as their punters favourite picks.

Tomorrow’s post will review the 7 GB Team athletes who have qualified for London2012. As a side note, the Olympic torch will come to Lee Valley tomorrow where 15 year old GB Junior paddler Zachary Franklin will run with the torch and 23 year old C1 paddler Mark Proctor will carry the torch through Chelmsford. Good luck Zachary and Mark. Please shares pictures.

2012 Olympic Games ICF Canoe Slalom Qualification

Overall, and as one might expect the qualification for nations for the Olympics is a little complex. In simple terms there were two qualification events, where nations often referred to as federations could qualify places for boats, in respective classes. The actual qualification, selection and nomination of the athletes to fill the places came much more recently. The nations qualified boat places through the 2011 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships and the Continental Olympic Qualification event. Still with me?

30 nations qualified one or more classes for the London Olympic canoe slalom. Technically, it was actually 29 nations and Togo gained a K1Men Tripartite Commission place.

Only 10 nations have qualified one boat in each class (K1M, K1W, C1 and C2), meaning they have 4 boats and five athletes, as the C2 includes two paddlers. In fact, Great Britain is the only nation to gain a 5th boat under a new rule for the Olympic Games introduced for London 2012, because the selected pair in the men’s C2 were also both selected in the individual classes and men’s C1 and men’s K1. This means GB is entitled to send a second men’s C2 boat to the Games.

On July 29th-30th the Lee Valley Whitewater centre will be welcoming 85 world class elite paddlers in 73 boats to compete for the four medal events. Based on our current assessment (unconfirmed), we anticipate the participating paddlers will include 5 Olympic gold medallist in canoe slalom from (1996-2008), 11 Olympic medallists, four current World Champions (K1M, K1W and C2) and the current ICF World ranked number 1 athletes at the end of June 2012 after World Cup 3. The standard will be exceedingly tough. Pavol and Peter Hochschorner are looking for a fourth consecutive Olympic gold in C2 and two paddlers won gold back in Atlanta in 1996 and have incredible race experience at this level.

Since canoe slalom returned to the Olympics in 1992 after a 20 year break the qualification system has changed substantially so that each nation now only has the ability to send one boat per class. So in each nation the stakes have gone up for that one Olympic qualification spot and we find ourselves in a position where defending Olympic or reigning World Champions may fail to qualify and so miss out on competing in London in just over 3 weeks.

Future posts in the coming weeks will explore the four respective classes in detail and the individual paddlers.