Five-time Olympian Michal Martikan showed what might have been by posting the fastest men’s C1 qualifying time at the 2018 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Rio on Wednesday.

Rio was the first Olympics 39-year-old Martikan missed since 1996, but he showed on Wednesday the course held no fears for him.

Australia’s Jessica Fox, a bronze medallist on the same course in Rio in 2016, took her first step to defending her 2017 world title by qualifying fastest in the women’s K1.

Martikan, easily the most experienced paddler in the field, showed he is still as strong now as he was when he won the first of his two gold medals 22 years ago in Atlanta.

While others struggled to put together smooth runs, Martikan breezed down the course in 88.86 seconds, 1.36 seconds ahead of Rio gold medallist, France’s Denis Gargaud Chanut, in 90.22.

Great Britain’s Ryan Westley picked up a two-second penalty for a gate touch, but was still quick enough to finish third in 91.58.

Martikan said to finally get a chance to compete on the Olympic course was a special opportunity.

“I think so,” he said.

“I was not paddling in the Rio Olympics, I was sitting in the crowd watching the race. I dreamed that I would like to paddle at the Olympic Games at this course. It’s always special because the Olympics is the best we can paddle at this most beautiful sport in the world.

“I was surprised about the result today, but I was not surprised by the run.

“After our eighth consecutive gold medal in teams’ events yesterday, my feelings are very good and it’s the main reason why I was paddling so smooth today.”

Fox continued her outstanding 2018 season with the fastest time in the women’s K1, posting a time of 94.14 to finish ahead of Rio 2016 gold medallist, Maialen Chourraut of Spain, in 95.96, with Slovenia’s Ursa Kragelj third in 96.23.

“It’s nice to be back, I had some good memories from here two years ago,” Fox said.

“Obviously with Rio, it was amazing to win a second Olympic medal. But I was left a bit frustrated because I felt like it wasn’t my best race.

“That’s what I’ll be looking for next, just one run at a time. The semi will be next, and then if I make the final, the goal will be to give it everything and have no regrets at the bottom.”

It was not a happy return to Rio for 2016 Olympic bronze medallist, Takuya Haneda, with the Japanese paddler failing to qualify for the semi-finals of the men’s C1.

The biggest shock in the women’s K1 came with two of the biggest names in the sport, Germany’s Ricarda Funk and Austria’s Corinna Kuhnle needing two runs to qualify for the semis.

The 2018 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships continue in Rio on Thursday, with heats in the men’s K1 and the women’s C1.

<a href='/webservice/athleteprofile/36526' data-id='36526' target='_blank' class='athlete-link'>Jessica Fox</a> K1 World Championship Rio 2018 Australia

Canoe Slalom
#ICFcanoeslalom #Canoeslalom