How 5 Olympic Champions Dreams Came True
The average age of our Olympic medallists was 29. So what you may ask? This tells us two things. First, that Olympic medallists have been on the international senior circuit for ten years. Second, that double Olympic medallist and World Champion Jess Fox (AUS), Jakub Grigar (SVK), Mario Leitner (AUT) and Anna Satila (BRA) have Olympic exposure in the bag that deepens their international race experience, yet are all under 23.
For our review, we sought the reflections from the new Olympic Champions and our other champions. Here is what they had to say.
K1M Olympic Champion, Joe Clarke (GBR)
“2016 has definitely been the highlight of my career without a shadow of a doubt. It's made all the bad days worthwhile. When I stood on the top of the podium in Rio, it all felt like a dream. My plan was always to prioritise Rio in the 2016 season. I opted only to do 1 World Cup and the European championships.”
Clarke added. “Since the Olympics I've taken part in fundraising for BBC Children in Need, attended film premiers, the finest restaurants and soaked the whole experience in. I've loved every minute.”
K1W Olympic Champion, Maialen Chourraut (ESP)
“For last two seasons, the Olympics were the obsession. In 2015, to take the quota for Spain in London. Also try to get all the possible benefit in World Cups, European and World Championships for our internal trials. Then the March-April 2016 selections races. After that, test myself racing international races.”
“Finally my Olympic dream came true. I worked the last years thinking of the Olympic final run. My plan was to arrive in the final without looking for a fastest run. I've won too many qualification runs. Then do the best run in the final. My plan went perfectly. I couldn't believe it.”
“After such an amazing experience, start again. A new season and new goals. Always with a desire to improve,” comments Chourraut.
C1M Olympic Champion, Denis Gargaud Chanut (FRA)
“It’s been a personal and a team accomplishment. I am happy about what I have achieved in my career. Whatever happens now will be like the cherry on the cake. I am keen to be part of the event in Pau and looking forward to great organisation.”
C2M Olympic Champions, Ladislav & Peter Skantar (SVK)
"The 2016 season was the most important for us in all of our previous athletic career. A lifelong dream was competing at the Olympics. We prepared for it with everything we had, and our dreams were fulfilled. It was a great feeling when we were selected for the Olympics, and an indescribable feeling after the last boat when we became Olympic champions. We finished a satisfying season with wins at the last two World Cup races."
2016 Champions Table
Click here to see the consolidated summary table of key race winners (correct as of Dec 1, 2016)
Slovakia topped the individual medal table across the World Cup series and Olympics ahead of France. The Spanish team rose to third in the medal table. Medals were spread across 17 nations more than in recent seasons.
C1M – France take Olympics and World Cup series
Denis Gargaud Chanut (FRA) produced a stunning run in the Olympic final ahead of Matej Benus (SVK). Gargaud Chanut will be on his home course for the 2017 ICF World Championships. He is likely to be racing against his former C2 partner Fabien Lefevre (USA). Lefevre won the 2014 Deep Creek Worlds but was unable to race for selection for the Rio Olympics.
The Olympic bronze for Takuya Haneda (JPN) could not have come at a better time as we start the next four-year cycle to Tokyo 2020.
Slovakia continues to dominate C1M with Alexander Slafkovsky the World Cup series winner and Benus as new World No.1.
C1W – Great Britain take the World Cup series 1-2
Without the distraction of peaking for the Olympics, many of the C1W were freer to focus on the World Cup series.
World Cup series winner Mallory Franklin shared her reflections too “It was another step up for me. I was working trying to keep my performances consistent, my results are starting to show that, and it was great to come away with the overall too! I thoroughly enjoyed my season, and I am looking forward to building on it next year.”
Interestingly, since Rio we have seen several top K1W training and racing in C1W. These include 2009 World Champion Jasmin Schornberg (GER) and Olympic silver medallist Luuka Jones (NZL). Expect more of the top women to explore this anticipated Olympic class.
We expect the ICF to make the formal submission to the IOC during 2017, for the C1W as one of the four Olympic canoe slalom medal events for Tokyo.
K1M – The wild cards are finding their form
In our season preview, we included the quote from Joe Jacobi that “one of the strongest types of competitors on the Olympic start line is the experimenter with true belief.” This could well be said to have applied to Joe Clarke. Clarke had shown his cards topping the semi-final at the Rio Acquece (test event) at the end of 2015 after his selection for the Great Britain team.
Jakub Grigar (SVK) has rocketed up to 4th in the World Ranking. Just a year ago he was 54th. That is a meteoric rise, and he is still just 19. Grigar has stiff competition, not least from Prskavec who is World Champion, three times European Champion and Olympic bronze medallist.
Three-time Olympian, Peter Kauzer (SLO) rightfully added an Olympic silver to his two World Championship, three World Cup series and European Championship titles.
K1W – Smoothest wins
Jess Fox started and finished the season as ICF World No.1 in both K1W and C1W.
“I had probably my best season yet with consistent podium results in K1W and C1W, winning my 10th Junior/U23 world titles and obviously the Olympic bronze was very special! It makes me excited to continue for the next four years and keep looking to improve. I enjoyed racing the World Cup series; I decided to do the last two after the Games, which weren't initially on the radar in Prague and Tacen. Despite the problems on the [Tacen] course, I enjoyed the shortened format. Looking forward to summer in Australia and our selection trials in New Zealand at the new Auckland course.”
You can read again our popular post Why is Maialen Chourraut so quick? The 2017 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships are on the course in Pau, just across the Pyrenees in France. A course Chourraut knows well. “It is always great to be in Pau,” she said in June. Expect her to be well prepared and quick.
We dedicated the last of our Rio 2016 blog posts to German K1W coach, Stefan Henze, who tragically died in Rio. It seemed all the more fitting to see Ricarda Funk (GER) win the overall 2016 ICF World Cup series.
C2 – Slovakia back on top in C2M
Ladislav & Peter Skantar sustained the Slovakian domination of the Olympics C2M (2000, 2004, 2008 & 2016) and then capped off the season by winning the final two World Cup races. The 14-gate shortened course in Tacen appeared to make no difference to the predicted results.
France demonstrated the depth of their team with the top three positions in the World Cup series that didn’t even include the Olympic bronze medallist crew of Gauthier Klauss and Matthieu Peche (FRA). They again finish the year as World No. 1 C2M crew.
Most promising paddler award
At the conclusion of the Olympics, we asked the world’s top paddlers, coaches and managers, to whom they recognised as the most promising paddler.
There was almost universal nomination for 19-year-old, Jakub Grigar from Slovakia.
Grigar has been astonishingly quick all season.
Congratulations to the top Juniors in the 2016, based on ICF 2016:4 ranking; Felix Oschmautz (AUT) 48th in K1M, Klaudia Kwolinska (POL) 32nd in K1W, Marko Mirgorodsky (SVK) 34th in C1M, Nadine Weratschnig (AUT) 16th in C1W and Vojtech Mrusez & Albert Kaspar (CZE) 36th in C2M.
Final Reflections on 2016
Typical of Olympic years we have learned of several retirements that include Austrian husband and wife Olympians Helmet Oblinger and Violette Oblinger-Peters, Etienne Stott (GBR), Emilie Fer (FRA) and Richard Hounslow (GBR).
We have seen some new courses opened this year, notably Wero Whitewater Park, Auckland (NZL) and Riversport Rapids, Oklahoma City (USA). In addition to the Olympics, we saw the introduction of the popular Slalom Cross at the ICF World Cup races. Here is the insider’s guide to Slalom Cross
It seems appropriate to allow one of the voices of canoe slalom, Andy Maddock the final reflection of our thrilling 2016 season.
“The 2016 season saw many athletes focused on delivery in just one race - the Olympic Games. First people had to qualify for their National Teams, and that gave us some of the tightest racing of the season such as Boris Neveu vs. Sebastian Combot in French selection and Jiri Prskavec vs. Vavra Hradilek at the Europeans. The racing highlight for me was the C2M Olympic final - everyone had to go quicker than the semi and what a final as C2M bowed out of the Olympic programme. Other highlights were Maialen Chourraut delivering the K1W gold and first slalom Olympic medals for JPN and NZL”, said Maddock.
We look forward to an exciting 2017 season with World Cup series races in Prague, Augsburg, Markleeberg, Ivrea and Seu. Then we all come together in Pau, France for the 2017 ICF World Championships at the end of September.
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Article by John Gregory - @gregiej
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Denis Gargaud Chanut
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ICF World Cup series 2016
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ICF Junior Worlds 2016 - Krakow
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ECA Senior Europeans 2016
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ECA U23 Europeans 2016
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ECA Junior Europeans 2016
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