2015 ICF Canoe Slalom season preview

Al Ain photo courtesy of Richard Houslow
Al Ain photo courtesy of Richard Hounslow

Here is my 2015 season preview posted on Sportscene.

If you are an accomplished slalom paddler then good luck this season and alternatively if you are completely new to canoeing then I hope the above post encourages you to pick up a paddle for the first time. Happy reading.

The articles includes interviews with the Brazil team ahead of he Junior/ U23 World Championships, James Cartwright of Canoe-Kayak Canada ahead of the Pan American Games, Paul Owen, British Canoeing Chief Executive ahead of the Senior World Championships at Lee Valley as well as a variety of the top paddlers.

I will be providing live race tweets for the Pan Am Games, Lee Valley Worlds and through the World Cup races using #ICFslalom all season. Follow me @gregiej

Click here to see the 2014 reigning champions

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

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

Mallory_Franklin_Prague_Worlds
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.

GB Canoe Slalom Final Selection Event – Lee Valley April 27 – 28

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.

I will be bringing you live results here as well as through the Sportscene.tv and International Canoe Federation Cardiff World Cup website

Great Britain's Richard Hounslow in K1M focussed on advancing to the semi-finals (photo courtesy of Michael Barnett)
Great Britain’s Richard Hounslow in K1M focussed on advancing to the semi-finals (photo courtesy of Michael Barnett)

 

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.

New heights for Great Britain canoe slalom C2

Great Britain’s C2 pair of David Florence and Richard Hounslow powered their way down in a strong 108.93 seconds with no penalties to win the semi-final in C2. Only 6 boats qualify for Thursday’s final in an hour and Great Britain for the first time ever has two C2 boats in an Olympic final. New heights. Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott qualified for Great Britain in sixth place. David and Richard will be the last off in the final.

As expected the three time Olympic champions qualified comfortably in second with a time off 109.04 seconds with a 2 second penalty. It was easily the fastest actual run time of 107.04 plus a 2 second penalty for hitting gate 5 on the top section of this Olympic Lee Valley Whitewater centre course. The Hochschorner’s pulled out the stops with a direct move on gate 18. Heat winners Klauss and Peche from France executed a similar move to qualify third.

With two TeamGB paddlers in the final of 6 boats it will be noisy and tense in this 12,000 sweater stadium.

New Olympic K1M champion waiting in the wings

Another thrilling spectacle here at Lee Valley for the canoe slalom K1M semi finals. Reigning World Champion Peter Kauzer from Slovakia hit gate 9 and then blistered down the rest of the course. he finished with 96.02 including his two second penalty. Based on the final split he made up 2 seconds in the last 5 gates before the finish. Clear his time would have been an awesomely quick 94.02 seconds. He will start last in the final this afternoon.

Through to the final are: Aigner, Hernanz, Hradilek, Kauzer, Polaczyk, Molmenti, Oblinger, Daille, Boukpeti and Yazawa. This marks Japan’s first progression to an Olympic final. The run times were comparable with yesterday’s C1 showing how tight and technical this course is. Many paddlers have lost a second or two just above gate 10 by crossing just a little too high, including Hounslow. Three paddlers came unstuck incurring 50 second penalties. Hanes Aigner from Germany who was last down in the semi continued his excellent form, although he picked up a 2 second penalty on gate 22. Nevertheless, he is safely through to what is expected to be a nail-biting final.

Further disappointment for TeamGB with Richard Hounslow failing to make the top 10 for the final. Richard incurred a 2 second penalty for touching gate 19, which was clearly a shock for him as he crossed the line and looked up at the scoreboard. Richard and David will now re-group with their coach Nick Smith to focus on the upcoming semi-final in C2 tomorrow. This is a class in which Great Britain has never previously medaled at Olympics but we do have the advantage of two boats having qualified for the semi-finals.

Full results of the semi-final and finals in K1M plus a preview of the final day of competition to come later tonight.

Estanguet – Martikan 3:2 on Olympic Golds

Canoe Slalom Olympic Day 3 Review

In the World of Olympic C1 canoe slalom, Tony Estanguet from France now has 3 Olympic Golds to his nemesis Slovakia’s Michal Martikan’s two. They are both class acts. This time around they were divided by Germany’s new rising C1 star, Sideris Tasiadis. As is so always true in this sport it can all come down to penalties. All the medallist had clear runs.

Olympic Canoe Slalom C1 Champion Tony Estanguet, France celebrating his third Olympic title (photo courtesy of http://www.aephotos.co.uk)
Olympic C1 silver medallist Sideris Tasiadis from Germany (photo courtesy of Sportscene)

New Olympic silver medalist, Sideris Tasiadis will be a key paddler to watch in the future. He was delighted with his strong semi-final run that placed him in the lead going into the final. He was then last man down and with a comparable run to his first slotted in between Estanguet and Martikan to take his first Olympic medal. The 22-year-old was previously the Junior World Champion in 2009 and this year won the European Championships on his home course at Augsburg. Germany has long had a strong history in C1 with a bronze in Athens from Stefan Pfannmoller plus multiple medals at Worlds, World Cup and European Championships since 1991.

The largely British 12,000 spectators, whipped up by the live race commentary went wild when David Florence came down for his semi-final run. David was paddling well until gate 18 when the front of his C1 hit the left hand pole of the tough downstream (green and white) gate positioned in the eddy. With this touch and 2 second penalty added to his time he was unable to make it into the top 8 for the final. David Florence will be back in action on Thursday in the C2 class with his pair Richard Hounslow.

Michal Martikan hit gate 1 on his semi-final run and was then the only C1 paddler to take the 9-10-11 gate sequence direct without a spin. He made it through to the final and posted the then fastest final clear run time of 98.31 seconds again direct on the same gate sequence with Tony Estanguet next down the course. Bronze at London2012 still represents Michal’s fifth Olympic medal and he still looks exceptionally strong and controlled.

Tony Estanguet delivered controlled clear runs in both the semi-final and then the final. After posting the fastest time of 97.06 seconds in the final he then had to sit for two more paddlers, to complete their own runs to see if he would hang on to the lead and which colour medal he would take home. In the end no-one could better his time and it was a 3rd Olympic Gold. He is also a three time World Champion, twice World Cup champion and three times European Champion. The heavens opened at Lee Valley just in time for the medal ceremony, although the French and medallists didn’t care and were already celebrating noisily.

Neither Estanguet, 34 nor Martikan, 31, appear likely to retire and so the World Championship next year in 2013, which take place on the Prague course will again be a fiercely contested battle.

Day 4 K1M Medals Day Preview

Wednesday is day 4 of the Olympic canoe slalom competition we have the semi-finals and finals of the K1M – men’s single kayak class. They are on a different course than their heat on Sunday but the same course as the C1 semi-final and finals on Tuesday. The 15 remaining K1M paddlers start at two minute thirty second intervals for a single run semi-final, with only 10 qualifying for the final. In the semi-finals they go in reverse order of their finish in Sunday’s heat, with another German, Hannes Aigner off last having won the heat with his lightening quick second run. In K1M Germany has won three of the five K1M Olympic titles since 1992. However, there any many very strong and experienced K1M in Wednesday’s semi-final, including 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. In addition, there are several previous Olympian’s Togo’s Benjamin Boukpeti won bronze in Beijing is the only Olympic medalist in the K1M; Ireland’s Eoin Rheinisch was 4th in Beijing and Austria’s Helmet Oblinger was 7th in Beijing as well as 4th in Sydney. Vavrinec Hradilek was the 2010 World Championship silver medalist and had two tidy clear runs in the heat. Another favourite from the heat is Samuel Hernanz from Spain, who similarly finished clear. Great Britain’s hopes are on Richard Hounslow, who recovered from an unspectacular first run in the heat but secured 11th in the heat.

K1M hopes for an Olympic K1M Gold rest on Richard Hounslow in Wednesday’s semi-final and final (photo courtesy of Michael Barnett)

Again, it will be tense competition right down to the very last run of the final. Who will be on the podium? Hold on to your seat and scream at the TV or in the stands at Lee Valley.

Come back Wednesday night for the final medal standings for the K1M and a preview of the C2 and K1W semi-final and finals which take place at Lee Valley on Thursday.

Comments @gregiej on Twitter

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