Canoe Slalom

By John Gregory

The first year in a new Olympic cycle heading to Tokyo. The venue construction is well-advanced and several athletes have been travelling out to Tokyo. Fédération Française de Canoë-Kayak (FFCK) demonstrated in style a wonderful showcase for the sport. The number of local children inspired by the Worlds was a testament to their superb organisational skills.

K1M – Three different Czech World Champions in 4 years

The depth of the Czech K1M became all too clear as Ondrej Tunka, 27, took the world title. His achievement followed team-mates Vavra Hradilek in 2013 & Jiri Prskavec in 2015.

“I had a great start in our selection races but during the season I wasn’t able to make a good run in the final. And I’m so happy that I saved the best run ‘til the last and most important run of the season. Pau river isn’t my favourite but I liked the final course. One of the reasons why I went so well was that few minutes before my run I heard that Tereza and Ana medalled. It made me so happy and calm on the start. Me and Vit are prenominated [selected]. I really looking forward to race in Troja next year. That’s the best gift for the medal,” commented Ondrej Tunka.

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The Czech domination did not stop there. Vit Prindis, 28, won three of the World Cup races and took the overall series win. Surprisingly, it is the first time a Czech K1M has won the World Cup series.

“The season 2017 season for me was incredible and best one so far. I did all major finals and achieve big success of winning overall World Cup as first Czech kayaker in history. Also had a medal at Worlds in Pau which secure me my place in team for next year,” described world number one, Vit Prindis (CZE).

Vavra Hradilek, 30, won the first ICF World Championship Extreme Canoe Slalom men’s title. He had not qualified for the Czech team.

It would be remiss not to mention Peter Kauzer. The whole slalom community was both impressed and inspired by Kauzer’s season and run in the Pau final. It had followed on the heels of his win at the Seu World Cup final. His bronze medal is his third following golds in 2009 and 2011. He is also the Olympic silver medallist from Rio.

K1W – Are closing in on the men

Ricarda Funk (GER) finished 2017 as the world numer one after defending her ICF World Cup series title. “I actually couldn‘t believe I had won four world cup races. It felt so great. Overall, I was really enjoying paddling, travelling and racing," says Funk. She then took her fifth medal of the season on the podium in Pau. She now has two individual World Championship medals with silver in 2015 and bronze in 2017. She had previously commented about her delight at being back on the team and fun of paddling in Pau.

Double Olympic medallist, Jess Fox is now a double World Champion. Her final run in Pau was astonishingly quick. At 105.77 per cent of the K1M winning time, it was the most outstanding run of the year. Note that she was also 109 per cent of the winning K1M at the Markkleeberg World Cup race. But that was in C1W and is a totally different story.

“I was very pleased with my season. I didn’t start out too well at the first World Cup but I had consistent races over the next four and medals at each race. While I’m disappointed with the C1 at the World Championships, the K1 race definitely made up for it! I think it was probably my best run ever. I don’t think I’ve ever been that close to the K1M,” says Fox from Penrith.

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It was a tough year for Olympic Champion, Maialen Chourraut, albeit after a win at the opening World Cup race in Prague. Chourraut, 34, had been leading at both splits in the Pau final. In her usual pragmatic way, she emphasises that she still has more slalom inside and is taking recovery from illness step by step. Chourraut was recognised in the 2016 National Sports Awards by the Consejo del Deporte.

“Training was hard and the feelings were harder. The Worlds was a pity for me. I was out of the final by just 0.07 seconds. Losing two seconds last gates!! So, no choice for playing the final! I was ready to fight that final, but I couldn't. But this is the game.”

It was another strong season for Jana Dukatova (SVK), competing in her 11th World Championships. The 34-year-old has four World Championship medals with gold in 2006 and silvers in 2010, 2011 & 2017. We recommend Dukatova’s excellent VLOG

Congratulations to Melanie Pfeifer whose son, Leon, was born the same day the German K1W took gold in the World Championships team in Pau. We understand she is back in a boat training again.

C1M – Top rung of the ladder for Savsek

“In C1 the Slovaks are still there and Beni [Savsek] finally get this gold medal that he deserves so much,” commented Olympic Champion, Denis Gargaud Chanut.

Benjamin Savsek (SLO) goes on to explain. “This year's season was truly top for me with the ultimate World Champion title. I have enjoyed every race this season as I had step up the form really good and saved the best for the end.”

Savsek, 30, has finally stepped up to the top rung of the ladder. This has been his fourth consecutive podium; bronze 2013, silver 2014 & 2015 and gold 2017.

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Gargaud Chanut had commented at the beginning of the season that to win on the course in Pau requires the ability to be adaptive and lucky.

He made the Pau final, adding “My season was very intensive due to the media and stress after the Olympics. My goal was to be fit and ready for the World Championships in Pau and I think we did manage to get me ready physically and technically.

Let’s not overlook the legend that is 38-year-old Michal Martikan (SVK). He secured his 21st World Championship medal in Pau; 11 individual and 10 team. He also won the Markkleeberg World Cup race.

Unsurprisingly, the Slovakian C1M retained their World Championship team stranglehold. Martikan, Slafkovsky and Benus have won every team race since 2009.

Sideris Tasiadis appeared to have quiet a year, yet, taken the World Cup series win for the second time in his career. “I am very proud of my season on 2017. I win my first World Cup and then my second. I am very happy about that. I am now in preparing for next season. I fly for two weeks to Dubai to train in Al Ain at the Wadi Adventure.”

C1W – New firsts for Great Britain & Brazil

Mallory Franklin (GBR) took a first dramatic C1W World Championship title for Great Britain. This title follows silver medals in both 2013 & 2014. Meanwhile, in the same race, Ana Satila achieved a first senior World Championship medal for Brazil.

“It has been an insane year, I can’t believe it! I have enjoyed the year and learnt so much, the things that have come out of it are really amazing and are helping to bring canoeing more coverage within Britain and helping me become the role model I want to be and get more young kids into the sport! Going off first massively helped, there is nothing to compare yourself to you can just go paddling. The run was definitely a fight but I was able to keep fighting and it paid off,” said Franklin.

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It was another strong season for Jess Fox as noted earlier. She won three of the five World Cup races and the series title. The other race winners were Kimberley Woods (GBR) and Nuria Vilarrubla (ESP). The C1W class is getting increasingly competitive as they prepare for their Olympic debut in Tokyo.

C2 – A rekindled popularity

Given by the level of support in Pau, there was little hint that C2M is no longer an Olympic class. There were fewer C2 entries at the World Cup races and limited crews competing at U23 and Junior Worlds.

The French home crowd celebrated the Olympic bronze medallist Gauthier Klauss & Mathieu Peche (FRA) wonderful clear run to take the World Championship title. Klauss & Peche have been extraordinary ambassadors for the I love C2 campaign. Even so, their sentiments, strike a discourse about the deep sadness rippling through the slalom family.

“It’s always a hard thing to be competitive after an Olympic medal. But 2017 was the year of the official end of the Olympic C2 history. The most frustrating thing is the fact we didn’t choose the time when we stop our career.”

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World Cup Series Champions, Robert Behling & Thomas Becker (GER) said, “We are very happy with our 2017 World Cup Season. We had an unlucky start in Prague with the 50-second penalty but found our way back and had a good feeling over the season. It’s a shame that the C2 was no longer Olympic and every C2 have to look how they make a 2018 season.”

We saw the inclusion of mixed C2 at the World Championships for the first time since Bala in 1981. Margaux Henry & Yves Prigent kicked off the Pau World Championship finals with a home win for France.

Top Juniors

Congratulations to the top juniors in the 2017, based on ICF 2017:4 ranking; Felix Oschmautz (AUT) 50th in K1M, Sona Stanovska (SVK) 56th in K1W, Miquel Trave (ESP) 47th in C1M, Andrea Herzog (GER) 24th in C1W and Tomas Heger & Vojtech Heger (CZE) 28th in C2M. There is no Junior mixed C2 crew in the ranking. 

Final Reflections

We say goodbye to David Ford (CAN), World Champion in 1999 and World Cup Series Champion from 2003. Read a National Post article here looking back at Ford’s career. Great Britain double Olympian in C1M and senior coach Mark Delaney has also retired from the sport.

“Canoeing has been a massive part of my last for the last 40 years and has given me countless opportunities and amazing experiences. It’s also introduced me to hundreds of amazing people, and I’m privileged to have them as friends to this day,” Delaney wrote in his Facebook statement.

There are several new whitewater courses in construction, including Tokyo for the next Olympics. Ground has broken in Sweden at the Falun Whitewater Park

We saw the formal introduction of the ICF World Championships in Extreme Canoe Slalom. The first World Champions were Vavra Hradilek (CZE) and Caroline Trompeter (GER). 

We are impressed by the Slalom Stats introduced by Guille Diez It is the wonderful presentation of race results insights that we have needed for so long. His interesting stats from the World Cup series show that Vit Prindis has incurred the least penalties. I anticipate the dashboard statistics will evolve, yet, it is a great voluntary initiative and nicely communicated.

We look forward to an exciting 2018 season with World Cup series races in Liptovsky Mikulas, Krakow, Augsburg, Tacen and La Seu D’Urgell. Then we all come together in Deodoro, Brazil for the 2018 ICF World Championships at the end of September.

2017 Magazine