A welcome change in the weather brought out the best in the planet’s best canoe slalom athletes at the ICF World Championships and Paris Olympic qualifiers at Lee Valley in London on Thursday.

There were nervous moments for a handful of the top paddlers, but by close of business nearly all of the top-ranked athletes were safely through to Saturday’s semi-finals.

Germany’s defending Olympic and world champion Ricarda Funk showed she is in top form by posting the quickest qualifying time in the women’s K1. Australia’s Jessica Fox, chasing her first world title since 2018, was second quickest, while Dutch paddler Martina Wegman was third fastest.

“My first race here was the 2015 world championships, I won my first ever world championships medal here, it’s just great to have another major event here,” Funk said.

“I never feel relaxed, no matter if I am world champion or something else, I’m never relaxed and I want to show my skills.”

Several top-ranked athletes needed second runs to qualify for Saturday’s semi-finals, including Great Britain ‘s Mallory Franklin, Brazil’s Ana Satila, and New Zealand’s Luuka Jones. Slovenia’s Eva Tercelj, a 2019 world champion, was the biggest casualty, missing the semi-final by one position.

There were no surprises that a paddler from the Czech Republic qualified fastest in the men’s K1, however few would have bravely tipped it would be their youngest paddler, Jakub Krejci.

21-year-old Krejci edged out teammate and reigning world champion, Jiri Prskavec, while Brazil’s Mathieu Desnos was third quickest.

“I knew that my run was good, but the top of the course section did not go the way that I wanted, so I thought that someone would beat this time,” Krejci said.

“In all our preparation I was focussed for this race, so I’m happy with this run. But it is just a qualification, we don’t know what will happen in the semi and the final, but I hope it goes like this.

“It’s always tough, like in the Czech national cups. There are four world champions, and so many European champions, so we have a good preparation in our country.”

The top 15 countries in both the men’s and women’s K1 will earn quotas for next year’s Olympics. However, any athlete who earns a quota in C1 will not be able to also earn a ticket in the K1.

The 2023 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships continue on Friday with the men’s and women’s C1 semi-finals and finals.

Pics by Antony Edmonds

Czech Jiri Prskavec Lee Valley 2023

Canoe Slalom
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