Prskavec Returns to Penrith as an Olympic Medallist
Two-time canoe slalom World Champion and Olympic bronze medallist, Jiri Prskavec, continues his love affair with Penrith’s Whitewater Stadium in Australia this weekend, when the Czech joins a star-studded line-up at the Australian Open.
But even Prskavec’s attachment to the eastern Sydney course has been sorely tested in recent days, with the mercury climbing above the 40 degree celsius mark, turning the boiling, bubbling course into, as the 23-year-old described it, coffee.
Compared to the freezing cold February water of the Czech Republic, though, it’s still a much better place to be.
“The Penrith course is mainly the best one for winter training,” Prskavec said this week.
“At least I feel like it is the best spot where to train in the winter. There is always something to do around and I really like the course as well.”
Prskavec first came to Penrith as a 16-year-old in 2010. Officially he finished 26th in the Oceania Championships, but a lot of water has flowed under his kayak since then.
And a lot of the world’s best paddlers have followed the lead of Prskavec, heading Down Under for some serious racing ahead of the helter-skelter of the European season.
In fact, four of the top five K1 field from the Rio Olympics, including British gold medallist, Joe Clarke, will all be competing in Penrith.
But Prskavec admits most of the field will be using the event to blow out some post-Olympic cobwebs.
“I don’t think many athletes, except Australians and Kiwis, will be too prepared for the race, so I except a close and really good racing,” he said.
“I am not having as tough week of training so I hope I will be ready for first race of the season.”
So how does Jiri Prskavec build on an incredible 12 months that saw him claim the 2015 K1 world title and win bronze less than one year later at his first Olympics?
Coming from a country with a proud canoe slalom history, and a bottomless pool of talent, just qualifying to compete at the Olympics can almost be as tough as competing at the Games themselves.
“I was really happy,” Prskavec said.
“My dream came true only by going there, and that bronze medal, thats just wonderful.
“I am going to concentrate this year on having a medal at the European and World Championships, but we will see. There are many good K1 and I hope I will be able to get a few top spots.”
He’s not planning any wholesale changes to achieve those goals. When you’ve rocked and rolled your way down as many slalom courses as Prskavec has, you tend to know what works and what doesn’t.
“I am not really changing anything,” he said.
“I was well preparing for the main competitions since my junior years. The only thing I feel is that each year I am getting a little bit stronger and that helps me to be a little bit faster.”
While Prskavec is not for changing, he believes the sport is. And he believes, with boats getting quicker, the day will soon arrive that a new approach will need to be considered.
“I think the technique is changing, slalom is getting faster and new shapes of boats help K1M do really hard courses,” he said.
“I think our sport is at the point where we should start thinking about a little bit different courses between women and men.
“Otherwise we might come to a point when it will be a lottery.”
The Australian Open begins on Friday at Penrith’s Whitewater Stadium in Sydney, and runs through until Sunday.