The world’s best young canoe sprint athletes took advantage of perfect racing conditions to make a strong start to the 2022 International Canoe Federation Junior and U23 canoe sprint world championships in Szeged, Hungary, on Wednesday.

There were few surprises on a day when more than 70 races were held. Host nation Hungary showed they will play a major part in this week’s finals, posting quickest times in many of Wednesday’s qualifying races.

Hungary’s Anna Lucz won the U23 K1 200 title at the 2018 and 2019 world championships, and officially bows out of under age competition this weekend. She posted the fastest qualifying time in the K1 200 on Wednesday morning.

“I was a little it nervous before, but I’m happy with the result,” Lucz said.

“It makes it easier to be paddling here, I really like this course, I think everybody likes it, but it’s even better for us because we are at home. It doesn’t bother me (the crowd pressure).

“I’m really happy that I can do my last year here in Szeged, I really hope it’s going to be a good end of my U23 years.”

Spain’s Cayetano Garcia comes to Szeged with a C2 500 world title already this year. The former junior world champion is focusing on the C1 1000 this week and qualified straight to the final with a strong heat win.

“For me its my first world championship here, I’m happy to be with people of my age and to race against friends,” Garcia said.

“For me the main objective of this season is done, I’m here for fun and to challenge myself. The 1000 metres is a little more long, but its amazing to be here.”

Canada’s Sophia Jensen and Julia Lilley Osende have been paddling C2 together since 2016 andhave notched up an impressive list of age titles. On Wednesday they qualified straight through to the C2 500 final.

“It felt good, I was definitely a bit nervous but it was very controlled and relaxed, we’re ready to et going in the final,” Jensen said.

“We’ve been together for a long time, we just want to get that race plan and get the feeling 100 per cent down the best we can, and the results will come with that.”

The ICF Junior and U23 canoe sprint world championships will continue on Thursday, with the first medals to be contested on Friday.

Pics by Bence Vekassy

Canada Jensen Osende sprint Szeged 2022

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