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.

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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_Prague_Worlds
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.

David_Florence_Prague_Worlds
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.

Jessica_Fox_Prague_Worlds
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_Prague_Worlds
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 www.sportscene.tv/liveresults page or search #slalomtroja. Slalom World are 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.

Photos courtesy of Neil Proctor Photography

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 Sportscene.tv 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?

Tony_Estanguet
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 www.sportscene.tv/liveresults page or search #slalomtroja

Using Social Media for the 2012 Olympic Canoe Slalom

Blog author – John Gregory

I embarked upon a social media experiment for the London2012 Olympics. I have been a writer and commentator on canoe slalom for more than 25 years and volunteered to write a daily blog on canoe slalom as a feed for several sports websites. This was my contribution to the Olympics in raising awareness of our incredible, exhilarating sport of canoe slalom. Here is an account of what transpired and what can be learnt from the exercise.

I have been an early adopter of social media starting with Facebook, LinkedIn and Flickr in 2007, blogs starting from 2008, Twitter in 2009 and more recently Google+. The blog was published through WordPress, which I had used in other work related areas.  https://unofficialolympiccanoeslalom.wordpress.com. Each post was on a different topic related to international canoe slalom and I was working a couple of days ahead. Each post was about 500-1000 words with about 3 photographs. The blog ran for 31 days with 42 posts during between July 2nd and August 3rd. I posted live text from an iPad at the venue at the end of each class during the semi-finals and finals. The blog resulted in over 6000 views, with 743 on the last day of the Olympic canoe slalom event at Lee Valley Whitewater Centre.

The most searched item was Jessica Fox, the 18 year old Australian who won silver in the K1W – kayak single women class, followed by in order; Lee Valley, canoe slalom & Hannes Aigner, who won a bronze medal for Germany in K1M – men’s single kayak class. The number of views on the sports websites is unknown. The greatest number of referrals was through Google by a huge margin, followed by www.canoeslalom.co.uk , followed by Facebook and Twitter. The daily blog posts and multiple posts on the day of the finals and Team GB Gold & Silver medals meant that the blog came up multiple times in the first page of Google if searching for canoe slalom. So frequency of blog or website updates has a hugely significant effect on search engine optimization, as suggested by Eileen Brown in her book, ‘Working the Crowd’ and also in a guide ‘Going Social  – Tapping into Social Media for Nonprofit Success’ www.convio.com/social-media.

There were 215 tags. Top posts were; home page, Lee Valley venue, Spectators Guide, What to expect & Canoe Slalom from behind the lens. Top click-through’s were to the blog URL, London2012, Sportscene.tv and International Canoe Federation www.canoeicf.com . The tribute to Martyn Hedges received the most comments from several Olympian and paddlers at World Championships who had personally known Martyn. My own favourite post was the ‘My Ultimate Run’. In all the years of canoe slalom media I can never think that I have read an article written in the first person on what it ‘feels’ like to paddle a slalom race at this level. It was a fun piece of creative writing.

I publicized the blog through Twitter, Facebook and Linked. It was regularly retweeted including by BBC Sport. The most spectacular photography was made available to me by Michael Barnett www.mb23photography.com, Antony Edmonds www.aephotos.co.uk, Rob van Bommel www.sportscene.tv  and various other individuals and this added a professional look and depth to the quality of the posts.

How does this relate to the business world?

Over the years much of what I have learnt in the use of social media in business has come from my experiences of using social media in sport and charitable organisations. On this occasion, I have used more tags than ever before, seen the impact of these and the frequency of updates on search engine optimisation. I used captions below each photograph. Each post has been automatically publicised in Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  I also spent time reviewing the daily, weekly and month to date stats, which was exciting and motivating.

John Gregory August 28th 2012

@gregiej

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

Most promising paddler award

In an earlier post I suggested that it was not a question on whether Australia’s young 18 year old Junior World Champion would win a medal, only at which Olympics and what colour. For her to win a silver medal this afternoon at Lee Valley during London2012 is truly mind blowing. She won the Junior World Championship only last month in Wausau, USA.

For those in the sport, the name Fox is possibly the best known. Her father Richard was the 5 time World K1M individual champion between 1981 and 1993 (11 medals in total). I was blessed today to sit beside, Roger, Jessica’s grandfather to witness the GB C2 Gold and Silver and then Jessica’s silver medal in K1W. Jessica is coached by her mother, Miriam Jerusalmi-Fox who also won two World Championships (10 medals in total). Dad, Richard had the agony of a fourth place finish in Barcelona in 1992 so today will be a special day for the whole Fox family.

The K1W Olympic Gold medal was won by France’s Emilie Fer, 29 in a clear run of 105.90 seconds. Emilie had previously been 7th in Beijing and 4th at the 2011 World Championships. It is France’s second gold medal at Lee Valley following Tony Estanguet’s gold in the C1. Silver went to the young Jessica Fox and bronze to Maialen Chourraut.

So it only begs the question what we should expect from Fox in the 2013 Senior World Championships, Rio Olympics in 2016 and beyond? Richard inspired so many of us to take up canoe slalom it is truly special to see the legacy continue with a role model for a new generation.

Trials and tribulations in K1W semi-finals

Excitement at Lee Valley in the K1W semi-finals with ups, down and with plenty of penalties. Natalia Pacierpnik from Poland is the winner of the semi-final with a time of 107.79 with a two second penalty. None of the ladies really nailed the course and so the Gold medalist will need to pull out something exceptional. Four World Champions make it through to the K1W finals: Chourraut; Dukatova; Kuhnle and Schornberg. Junior World Champion, Jessica Fox from Australia and double Olympic Champion, Stepanka Hilgertova from Czech Republic are also through to the final later Thursday afternoon. There is everything to play for.

Further disappointment for Great Britain with the usually smooth and clean Lizzie Neave picking up 6 seconds of penalties and failing to qualify among the ten boats for the final.

Remaining qualifiers for final are: Emilie Fer from France, Marta Kharitonova from Russia and Hannah Craig from Ireland.

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.

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