Deep Creek Canoe Slalom Worlds 2014

Iconic image of Deep Creek Worlds (Photo courtesy of Jochen Meyer)
Iconic image of Deep Creek Worlds (Photo courtesy of Jochen Meyer)

The Deep Creek Worlds #DeepCreek2014 were historic in so many respects. My contribution took five parts:

1) 10 Predictions to Deep Creek Canoe Slalom Worlds posted on Sportscene

2) The Ultimate Run – 25 years on published in the Deep Creek official program(me)

3) Live commentary through 1,000 Tweets in four days @gregiej

4) The French Connection review posted on Sportscene. This includes rob van Bommel’s outstanding video round-up from the closing ceremony

5) 250 1-2 second video clip montage coming soon!

 

Vavra Hradilek on his 2nd qualification run, showing his historic Czech flair
Vavra Hradilek on his 2nd qualification run, showing his historic Czech flair (photo courtesy of Balint Vekassy, ICF)

I was honoured and privileged to interview Jon Lugbill, Davey Hearn, Richard Fox and Bill Endicott for the 25 year anniversary. The Ultimate Run. The feature previously included in the official programme. It was wonderful to work with Kent Ford & Lamar Sims, with whom I did the live race commentary for the ’95 Worlds in Nottingham, UK.

The Deep Creek official programme first page spread of feature
The Deep Creek official programme first page spread of feature

Funniest memories from Deep Creek were Jessica Fox appearing to tweet from the start line, Klauss & Peche startline selfie and Vavra’s stylish cross bow (above).

Kent Ford interviewing the legend Jon Lugbill winner of the 89 Worlds C1 title
Kent Ford interviewing the legend Jon Lugbill winner of the 89 Worlds C1 title

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.

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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

A day of surprise exits – Praha Worlds Day 2 review

John Gregory – @gregiej – Who would have thought? Today we saw the unexpected exits of such big names as Kuhnle, Martikan, Molmenti, Kauzer and Schubert. Astonishing really! The competition is hotting up as the qualification heats concluded and we progressed onto a very tough tight new course for the semi-finals on the Troja course in picturesque Prague.

In the second day of heats competition has again been tight as expected.

Lizzie_Neave_Niel_Proctor_Photography
Lizzie Neave K1W heat winner (photo courtesy of Neil Proctor)

In K1W overall heat winner was Lizzie Neave (GBR) with a faultless 2nd run of 98.09 seconds to lead 1.92 ahead of Olympic champion Émilie Fer (FRA). Fer had set the pace in the 1st runs with her time of 100.01 seconds. 26 year old Neave had also been the heat winner this season at both the Cardiff and Seu World Cup races. In both cases she finished on the podium in the final. The enormous shock was the exit of Austria’s 26 year-old Corinna Kühnle who came to Prague as reigning World Champion and one of the favourites. She posted a 98.66 second time but incurred a 50 second penalty on the downstream gate 21. She then put down a 100.95 quick second run but again was awarded a 50 second penalty for downstream gate 16. It will be the first time we have not seen her in a semi-final or final for some time and opens the field up to other athletes. She quickly left the venue. 15 nations placed boats in the 30 places which qualify for the semi-final on Saturday. These include Great Britain, Australia, Slovakia, Germany, Australia and Germany who all secured all three boats in the semi-final. Sadly, Ana Satila (BRA) was placed in 32nd just outside qualification. Japan’s 21 year old Aki Yazawa did qualify for the semi-final out-performing her team mate Yuriko Takeshita who had been 4th at the Beijing Olympics.

In C2 overall heat winner was Jarolsav Volf & Ondřej Štěpánek with 102.37 seconds clear. They led a Czech team lock out occupying first, second and third in the first runs and holding onto first and second with Ladislav & Peter Skantar (SVK) stealing third place at the conclusion to second runs. Impressive. Notable too, that Volf & Štěpánek have announced their retirement following these Worlds. Good way to go out. The semi-final comprises 9 nations, all European, with Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Germany and Poland all qualifying three boats for the semi-final tomorrow. Charles Correa & Anderson Oliveira (BRA) placed 22nd and failed to make the cut.

This afternoon’s racing then stepped up a gear with the semi-finals in C1M and K1M. The commentator and grandstand crowd grew louder and louder as the semi-finals progressed. The course designed by Olympic Champion Thomas Schmidt from Germany was exceptionally tough and worthy of a World Championship standard test.

In the first semi-final, C1M, there was an audible gasp as Michal Martikán finished outside the top 10 and failed to make the cut into the final. Only once had he failed to be on the podium and few can recall a time when Martikán hasn’t been in the final. The overall winner of the semi-final was deservedly Sideris Tasiadis who looked on sensational form and finishes in 104.43 clear only 0.40 seconds ahead of reigning World champion Denis Gargaud Chanut from France. The C1M final is made up of 7 nations of which the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Slovakia each have two boats. There are no boats from outside Europe.

In the K1M semi-final that followed, we were dumb struck to see Molmenti, then Schubert and then Kauzer fail to make the cut for the final. This is significant because Daniele Molmenti (ITA) is the reigning Olympic and former Wold Champion, Peter Kauzer (SLO) is the double reigning World champion and Sebastian Schubert (GER) is the newly crowned 2013 World Cup champion who has shown such superb consistency all season. The overall semi-final winner was another German Hannes Aigner from Augsburg who delivered a confident 95.42 seconds clear and 0.71 seconds ahead of Mateusz Polaczyk from Poland. The K1M final will be made up of 8 nations including Germany and Czech Republic with two boats and one boat each from North & South America. The event ended with local heat winner Vavřinec Hradilek (CZE) awarded a 50 second penalty on gate 16. After video review the 50 second penalty was removed and he finished 5th. Rising star of the day for me was 20 year old Joe Clarke (GBR) who at his first senior World Championships goes into the final 6th after a confident 2nd in the heat. The final will contain two former World Champions in the form of Fabien Lefevre (USA) and Fabian Dörfler (GER)

So still to come from Troja

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

I will be live tweeting @gregiej which you can follow on the www.sportscene.tv/liveresults page or search #slalomtroja. Slalom World were 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.

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

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)

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 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.

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Athletes – who are they?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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