China and Lithuania have caused major upsets on an afternoon of fierce racing at the opening International Canoe Federation World Cup for 2023 in Hungary.

The Chinese women’s K4 and Lithuanian men’s K4 both powered home to snatch 500 metre gold from their much more fancied rivals in challenging cold conditions in Szeged.

Cuba’s Yarisleidis Duboys won gold in the women’s C1 200, the only other Olympic event decided on Friday, while in paracanoe Australia’s Curtis McGrath, and British pair Charlotte Henshaw and Emma Wiggs all showed strong form at the start of a Paralympic qualifying season.

The men’s K4 500 was expected to see a continuation of the rivalry between the powerful Spanish and German crews, who have dominated recent world championship and Olympic titles.

But it was a crew from Lithuania, fifth at last year’s world championships and spearheaded by Maldonis brothers Simonas and Mindaugas, which stormed through to snatch the gold from Spain. Host nation Hungary held on to take the bronze, with Germany finishing fourth.

“We had a little mishap at the start, just a little one, but we managed to stay calm and most importantly we did our job,” Simonas Maldonis said.

“We didn’t get scared by the Hungarians who went crazy, we kept doing our things. Every year we have been getting better, but we couldn’t win any medals.

“Of course there is still a long time before the world championships, but it’s a good start.”

In the women’s K4 Poland, the reigning world champion and Olympic bronze medalist, started favourites for Friday’s final, but quickly fell off the pace as Australia, China and New Zealand set the early pace.

Over the final 100 metres the crew from China, which finished fifth at last year’s world titles and sixth at the Olympics, powered over the top of the field to take the gold, with Spain finishing a surprise second and New Zealand the bronze.

“We feel great, but we are a little bit surprised,” Mengdie Yin said.

“We have only been together for one month. It was hard racing today because it was so cold.”

The battle between Cuba’s Duboys and Canada’s Katie Vincent for the women’s C1 200 went down to the final metres, with the 21-year-old Cuban eventually triumphing over the 2021 world champion.

“For me it was a good race, after my strong preparation for this competition and ahead of the Pan American and Central American Games,” she said.

“I feel strong and will continue my preparation in Cuba and Colombia.”

Lithuania K4 Szeged 2023

A busy afternoon of paracanoe racing saw a triumphant return to international racing for Australia’s three-time Paralympic gold medalist, Curtis McGrath. He took gold in the men’s KL2.

Charlotte Henshaw hopes to become the first women’s VL3 Paralympic gold medalist when it makes its debut in Paris next year, but had to dig deep to hold off teammate Hope Gordon on Friday.

Her British teammate, Emma Wiggs, continued her dominance of the women’s VL2, while another Brit, Jonathan Young, returned to the top of the podium with a strong win in the men’s KL3.

Frenchman Remy Boulle was the most convincing winner of the day, trouncng the field to take gold in the men’s KL1.

In non-Olympic events, Portugal’s Fernando Pimenta and Romania’s Catalin Chirila both had good warm ups for their 1000 metre races this weekend with victories in their K1 and C1 500 races respectively.

Spain’s Antia Jacome and Maria Corbera won the women’s C2 200, Poland’s Dominika Putto won the women’s K1 200, and Uzbekistan’s Artur Guliev won the men’s C1 200.

The ICF Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe World Championships will continue from Szeged on Saturday. Exclusive coverage of all the racing can be found on the ICF’s Recast platform. 

Pics by Bence Vekassy

British Gordon and Henshaw

Canoe Sprint
#ICFsprint #ICFparacanoe