Slovenia’s Peter Kauzer is like a sleeping bear that no other canoe slalom paddler dares to prod, fearing what the response might be when he is fully awake.

Many of the world’s best canoe slalom athletes readily identify 34-year-old Kauzer as the man they fear the most on the competition circuit.

He is a classic example of an athlete whose record does not much his obvious ability, and the three-time Olympian is the first to admit it.

“I learn every day, every year something new and I know I can still get better and faster,” Kauzer said.

“So thats why I’m still 100 per cent motivated, because I’m curious about where I can go, where is my limit.

“And I still haven’t come to the highest point. At least that’s what I think.”

We should point out, there is nothing shoddy about Peter Kauzer’s K1 record. A silver medal at the Rio Olympics, World Championship golds in 2009 and 2011.

The Olympic medal is particularly meritorious, given two years earlier he suffered what could have been a career-ending shoulder injury.

It’s a CV most athletes would be happy to circulate, and Kauzer is rightly pleased with what he has achieved.

But those that have witnessed the Slovenian at his electrifying best – the semi-finals of the London Olympics, the semis of last year’s World Championships in Pau – are just waiting for him to burst out to produce the breakout year he is so capable of having.


2018 could be the year, if he is able to maintain the form he took into the second half of last season.

“My goal for the season is to show runs like I did in Seu D'Urgell and in Pau last year,” he said.

“I really enjoyed those runs. If I do that I’ll be happy. I was not happy with first part of last season, but the second part of the season was like I wanted.

“I’m proud of the runs I did in Seu and Pau. Even though I was third at the world championships in Pau, I was happy with the performance I’ve showed and being on the podium In every race in the second part of the season.”

For those who were there, or who watched the event unfold on television, Kauzer’s semi-final run at last year’s Pau World Championships was one of those moments you had to see to believe.

He tore his way down the French course in a sizzling 89.28 seconds – four seconds faster than the next quickest. It was the talk of the town, and no-one had any doubts that if he reproduced even close to that form in the final, than a third individual world title would be his.

And for more than a minute, it appeared he had. Kauzer, the last man on the water in the final, crossed the line more than one second faster than the next best. His emotions underlined what it meant for him – tears, a bow to the crowd, head in the hands.

But sport can be cruel – judges had picked up the faintest of touches on gate 17, and gave Kauzer a belated two-second penalty. He was gutted, his reaction a mixture of anger, disbelief and, eventually, reluctant acceptance.

Despite the penalty, he was still quick enough to finish third behind the Czech pair of Ondrej Tunka and Vit Prindis.

“In a tight competition like it is in K1 its hard to win a race with penalties – but I was close though!” Kauzer said.

“I was just happy with runs I showed in both, semis and finals.”

Not that he needed it, but that two seconds may be the spur Kauzer needs to take his paddling to the next level this year. But he has never been one to need much motivating, even with a possible fourth Olympic Games on the horizon.

“I love paddling, I love racing, I love challenges,” he said on the eve of his first big competition of 2018, the Australian Open.

“I have become more calm and I just accept things way the are, when they happen, whatever the outcome is, and try to improve next time

“I don’t think about Tokyo. Sure, my goal is to qualify to my fourth Olympics, but I’m going from season to season. I will start thinking of Tokyo when it comes.”

Canoe Slalom
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