A day of new Champions – Praha Worlds Day 3 review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will again be live tweeting @gregiej which you can follow on the 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

C1 legend Tony Estanguet goes out on top

Legendary French C1 triple Olympic Champion Tony Estanguet, 34, has today announced his retirement from canoe slalom. He truly leaves on top with gold in London his third Olympic gold, in addition to his three individual C1 World Championship titles, 2 World Championship C1 team medals, twice World Cup Champion and three times European Champion. He was the French flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

C1 legend Tony Estanguet (photo courtesy of AE Photos http://www.aephotos.co.uk)

His career at the top of the sport started more than 18 years ago competing against Michal Martikan as juniors in 1994, then with his first senior medal at the Tres Coroas World’s in Brazil back in 1997 (silver). He will be deeply missed at the Troja World’s in Prague next year. He goes out with legend status to rival American’s Lugbill & Hearn.

I was lucky enough to meet Tony a few times, watch him train and compete. He has an exciting smooth style to his paddling. I am sure we will still see him on the bank at the World’s and Rio Olympics helping the next generation of paddlers. He has been elected on to the IOC Athletes’ Commission on which he will serve for eight years. Good luck Tony in your next endeavours.


The Lee Valley canoe slalom legacy

Wow, what a legacy! Note to self – buy all of the newspapers!

Today’s last post is dedicated to the service of those who have invested the last few years of their lives to pull off the greatest canoe slalom show on earth. There really has been two Team GB’s: one dedicated to performance excellence with the athletes and one dedicated to those that have delivered the highest level competition venues. There have been challenges and disappointments along the way but this should not detract from what has been achieved. You should now all be incredibly proud.

The Times cover Friday August 3 2012 TheTimes.co.uk

There have been 800 people behind the scenes at the venue on race days. A core team of 11 led by Canoe Manager, John MacLeod (1972 Canoe Slalom Olympian) have worked full-time for several years to bring this competition together. I want to recognise and acknowledge what they have achieved. They are: Elaine Skilton (Canoe Services Manager), Colin Woodgate (Canoe Slalom Technical Operations Manager), Kelly Rainey (Slalom Admin Services Group Leader), Tamsin Phipps (Canoe International Federation Group Leader), Natalie Sandmann (Slalom Athlete and Team Services Group Leader, Debbie Littlehales (Slalom Sports Information Group Leader), Dave Royle (Slalom Field of Play Group Leader), Julien Gaspard (Slalom Sports Equipment Group Leader), Jacky Brookes (Slalom Technical Officials Group Leader) and Paskell Blackwell(Slalom Field of Play Safety Group Leader). The Venue General Manager of the Lee Valley Whitewater Centre is Paul Valkovics (see canoeicf.com). We were delighted to welcome two Royal Air Force Squadrons to provide security for the games; Royal Air Force Regiment Queen Colour Squadron (63) Northholt and 2 Squadron Honnington Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, as well as all the emergency services inside and beyond the immediate venue. There are so many others including Lee Valley, British Canoe Union CEO Paul Owen, GBCanoeing and their headline sponsor Tesco.

The Daily Telegraph Friday August 3, 2012 pages 4-5

The immediate post Olympics is a key decision point for athletes and teams. For the athletes, whether to commit to another four year cycle. For the Gold medallist, Molmenti, Estanguet, Fer and Ballie/Stott whether to now bow out on a high or commit to the next four year cycle. London2012 has been Hilgertova’s 6th Olympics and Oblinger’s 5th. Some of the paddlers will retire and move to be part of coaching staff in either their own National Federation or for oversees athletes. From a British perspective also the decision whether to permanently relocate the canoe slalom to Lee Valley or return to the base in Nottingham. There is currently no canoe slalom club at Lee Valley and several athletes and coaches see this as a next logical step to build a legacy from Lee Valley.

The ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships are confirmed at Lee Valley for 2015. Given the enormous UK interest generated in the sport can we argue for a 5-10,000 seater stadium for 2015. Recalling the 1995 World’s in Nottingham it was primarily attended by athletes, coaches, managers, officials, friends and family plus only a few hundred members of the public who may have
found themselves stumbling upon the race. It did have BBC and Eurosport TV coverage and this helped inspire a new generation of paddlers. This year is not yet over in the International Canoe Slalom calendar with two World Cup races remaining. The 2013 World Championships will be super exciting. They are back at the Prague Troja artificial canoe slalom course.

It was incredible to see the old guard in the stands or alongside the course, previous Olympic medallists such as Gareth Marriott, Lisa Micheler-Jones, Scott Shipley, Thomas Schmidt, Pierepaolo Ferrazzi, Paul Ratcliffe, Helen Reeves and Campbell Walsh as well as other Olympian’s; Nick Smith, Mark Delaney, Melvyn Jones, Ian Raspin, Rachel Crosbee, Chris Arrowsmith, Paul Brain and Miriam Jerusalmi-Fox and coaches Hugh Mantle, Ken Langford and Alan Edge.  At the same time there were Great Britain junior and U23 team paddlers cheering on their role models and thousands of club slalom paddlers and recreational canoeists. Our hope is that London2012 really will inspire a next generation of Olympians. Lee Valley was voted by LOCOG based on a spectator exit poll as the best Olympic venue. Helen Reeves was also voted as one of the best TV commentators. Kev McHugh, Andy Maddock and Randy Ferguson brought the venue alive with some high energy live commentary. We encourage everyone to come back for the ICF World Canoe Slalom Championships in 2015 again here at Lee Valley.

Before rounding off, a most overwhelming congratulations to all 83 paddlers, our 15 London2012 Olympic medallists and to Performance Director, John Anderson MBE on behalf of GB Canoeing staff. A vision has been realized!  We have a World Class venue in London & South East of England, Olympic Gold in canoe slalom, Olympic C2 medals and a media spotlight on this most amazing sport.

This is THE picture of the whole Olympic canoe slalom event. It captures everything we have dreamed of and what has been achieved. Congratulations. L-R Nick Smith, Etienne Stott, Mark Delaney, Richard Hounslow, David Florence & Tim Baillie. Photo courtesy of Antony Edmonds AE Photos http://www.aephotos.co.uk

It has been an absolute privilege to bring you this daily blog over the last month, which has generated almost 5,000 direct views. It has provided an encyclopaedia of canoe slalom for London2012. I would like to acknowledge a bunch of people who have helped me along the way in no particular order, they are: Michael Barnett (MB23 Photography), Antony Edmonds (AE Photos), Rob van Bommel (Sportscene), Tony Tickle (although not up to the expected standard!) and Craig Morris for permission to use photographs and Nick Smith, Chris Arrowsmith, Gareth Marriott, Elaine Skilton, Anne Hounslow, Jimmy Jayes, Russ Smith, Colin Woodgate and others for some facts, figures and opinions. Finally for the links and newsfeeds on www.canoeslalom.co.uk, www.LondonOlympic2012.comwww.thesportfeed.com, www.canoeslalomworld.com, Ollie Williams BBC Sport and TalkSport. Much appreciated guys.

Tell everyone you know in the UK to buy a newspaper today. I hope you pick up a paddle. Visit www.bcu.org.uk. For now, au revoir.


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.

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

British disappointment at Lee Valley in C1 semi-finals

Disappointment here at Lee Valley this afternoon as Great Britain’s and World No.1 David Florence fails to make it through to the finals. It was a composed start for Florence and on track until the tricky left green and white downstream in the eddy at gate 18 caused the bow of David’s C1 to lift and clatter the left hand pole of gate 18. There was incredible tension and deafening support for Florence as he came down. He finished with 106.16 some 7 seconds down.

The three fastest paddlers all had clear runs proving as always that it is about being fast and clean that counts. Double Olympian, Michal Martikan from Slovakia uncharacteristically struck gate 1 incurring a 2 second penalty. However, he then pulled off a sensational forward direct move between the exit of gate 9 and gate 11. He finished joint fourth to qualify for the final. Martikan’s arch rival Tony Estanguet from France also made the final coming 3rd with a comfortable clear run.

2009 Junior World Champion from Germany, Sideris Tasiadis, just 22, produced an impeccable clear run of 98.94 seconds to take a commanding lead. He will be last off in this afternoon’s final.

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


Canoe Slalom Day 1 Preview

We are here, seven years after London was first awarded the Games.

Today a preview of what to expect tomorrow for the first day of canoe slalom starting at the fabulous world class Lee Valley whitewater centre. Today the course has been set for the heats. It has been designed by Thomas Schmidt from Germany (Sydney Olympic Champion) and Marianne Agulhon from France (1991 World K1W Team Champion) and once set will be approved by Jean Michel Prono the ICF Chief Judge. The Olympic athletes do not have the opportunity to practice on the course and so today there will be demonstration runs from other elite slalom paddlers in each of the classes. This will be eagerly watched by the 83 Olympic paddlers, their coaches and managers. They will then go back and review video of these demonstration runs to see what they can learn.

David Florence, Olympic silver medallist in Beijing looking to advance to the C1 semi-finals on Lee Valley tomorrow (photo courtesy of Michael Barnett)

Tomorrow, on day 1 of the canoe slalom Olympic competition we have heats in two of the four classes; K1M and C1. This is good as for those paddlers who are doubling up for the C2 competition as they will have one day between their individual class heat and C2 heat. For the heats the paddlers have two separate timed runs on the course, the best of which, including penalties will form the ranking order for the heats. The field is then cut for the respective heats. In K1M there will be 22 starters with 15 qualifying for the semi-final. In C1 there are 17 starters and 12 qualifying for the semi-final. The athletes go of in reverse ICF World Ranking order. The current ICF number 1 athletes are K1M Peter Kauzer (Slovenia) and C1 David Florence (Great Britain) will be the last to go in their respective heats tomorrow.

The course is set and demonstrations runs have been completed, 22 gates, with six red and white upstream gates and considered to be 4 tough moves. This will be the same course for each of the four classes and both of their two runs. As the C1 paddlers are either left or right handed, the course designers will ensure that the course is balanced with a similar number of upstream breakout gates on the left side of the course and right as the paddler goes down. There will be a new course set after the heats for the semi-final and final.

An amazing stadium with seating for 12,000 spectators each day has been constructed on the front of house running all the way from just below the start spanning all the way around to the bend at the finish. This will create the most incredible atmosphere on this purpose built 300 metre Olympic whitewater at Lee Valley, described by David Florence as the toughest in the World. The heats will be fiercely competed amongst this World Class field.

In the K1M, Togo’s Benjamin Boukpeti who won bronze in Beijing is the only Olympic medallist in the K1M, however there are many previous Olympians, Ireland’s Eoin Rheinisch was 4th in Beijing, Austria’s Helmet Oblinger was 7th in Beijing as well as 4th in Sydney and Scott Parsons was 6th in Athens. In additional, there are two World Champions: Italy’s Daniele Molmenti and reigning World Champion Slovenia’s Peter Kauzer. These two paddlers have shown consistent form since the last Olympics and are both eager to capture an Olympic medal to add to their World Championship, World Cup and European Championship gold medals. Mateusz Polaczyk from Poland and Vavrinec Hradilek are both previous World Championship silver medallists.  Great Britain has a strong history in K1M, with 2 previous Olympic silver medals and so look out too for local, Richard Houslow who took an emphatic win at the Great Britain team selection on this Lee Valley course in April.

In the C1, the heats include two former Olympic Champions, Michal Martikan from Slovakia (Atlanta & Beijing) and Tony Estanguet from France (Sydney & Athens). Between them, Michal and Tony have won Olympics, World Championships, World Cup and European Championships and are the favourites. However, their long reign will eventually come to an end as new C1 paddlers find a consistent winning form like former Junior World Champion Sideris Tasiadis from Germany who won the 2012 European Championships in Augsburg, Stanislav Jezek from Czech Republic winner of the 2011 World Cup or Great Britain’s David Florence Beijing Olympic silver medallist and 2009 World Cup winner.

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

There is lots of TV coverage available. The canoe slalom is also being recorded in HD and 3D. For those with a TV licence there is live comprehensive coverage on the BBC, starting at 1.30pm and again at 2.24pm on Sunday as well as further coverage on BBC3 and online channels. NBC also has coverage of canoe slalom. There will be coverage on Eurosport. The paddlers will go off at 2 minute and 30 second intervals.

  • First run of the C1 heat start at 1.30pm until 2.18pm.
  • First run of the K1M heat start at 2.24pm until 3.27pm.
  • Second run of the C1 heat start at 3.42pm until 4.30pm.
  • Second run of the K1M heat start at 4.36pm until 5.39pm.

Tomorrow come back for results and commentary from these heats and a preview of the K1W and C2 on Monday.

Comments @gregiej on Twitter

Junior/ U23s on the rise

Last week saw the Junior & U23 canoe slalom World Championships wrap up in Wausau, Wisconsin, USA with the Czech Republic taking home 13 medals, followed by Australia and then France in the medal standings. Both the Czechs and Australian’s finished with 4 golds each. Today’s post looks at these Junior & U23 World’s as well as previous World’s to see what this can tell us about the prospects at Lee Valley starting in just over a week as well as future Olympics.

Three of the paddlers from this month’s Junior & U23 World’s are amongst the athletes competing at London2012. They are Jessica Fox(Australia), Casey Eichfeld (USA) and Caroline Queen (USA). These youngsters should not be discounted, Jessica Fox, now 18, was the Girls Youth Olympic K1 slalom champion in 2010, is double Junior K1W canoe slalom World Champion and has just been described by the ICF as “the most successful paddler at the [Wausau] championships”, winning 3 gold’s (K1W, C1W and C1Team), 22 year old Casey Eichfeld returns for his second Olympic Games, and although Caroline Queen is looking for her first podium finish at top level international canoe slalom she became the youngest woman to make the US Slalom National team at age 15.


Jessica Fox, 18, on the podium at the Cardiff World Cup race. Now Junior K1W and C1 champion (photo courtesy of Michael Barnett)

I took a quick scan through the previous World’s results and UK Slalom Yearbooks. Of the British Olympic canoe slalom medallists: Gareth Marriott won Junior World’s in 1987; Paul Ratcliffe won Junior Pre-World’s in 1991 and Helen Reeves won Junior World’s in 1996. See a pattern? Lizzie Neave won a bronze team medal at the Junior World’s in 2004.

Lizzie Neave, 25, representing Great Britain at her first Olympics. K1W J14 champion when Paul Ratcliffe was winning Silver in Sydney (photo courtesy of Michael Barnett)

When Paul Ratcliffe was winning silver in Sydney, Lizzie Neave was already competing in Division 1 in the UK becoming K1W Junior under 14 championship winner  and then by 2005, still as a junior (J18), she won the first of her three British National Championships. Similarly Richard Hounslow was the K1M Junior under 14 champion in 1995. So what is a good age to start? Well back in 2001 I did an interview for Canoe Kayak UK magazine with Janine Dickie who at the time had become the youngest paddler ever to reach Divison 1 at just 11 years of age! As suggested before Olympic Champion Tony Estanguet talks about starting to paddle at the age of 5 and by age 16, Michal Martikan had already won his first Senior World Champion medal.

This suggests that the current Junior World athletes are those from whom to expect Olympic medals in 5-10 years, so Rio in 2016, and then in either Istanbul, Tokyo or Madrid in 2020. Look out for the following winners from this year’s Junior World’s: KIW/C1W Jessica Fox (Australia); C1M Cedric Joly (France) and C2 Pavol Kavolkov & Artem Bogdanov (Russia). The most successful nations at Olympic canoe slalom competition so far are; France (14 medals – 4 gold), Slovakia (10 medals – 7 gold), Germany (9 medals – 4 gold), Czech Republic (7 medals – 2 gold) and Great Britain (5 medals – 4 silver & 1 bronze). Interesting to see that above France and Czech Republic are still strong.

Tomorrow’s post will give some practical tips to getting to Lee Valley and what to expect at this stunning new whitewater canoe slalom venue. Comments are welcome here or @gregiej on Twitter.