2018 season set to take slalom to a new level

Regular ICF contributor John Gregory looks ahead to the 2018 ICF Canoe Slalom season, which gets underway this weekend in Slovakia

2018 season races

The regular World Cup and World Championship season start now in Europe before concluding back in South America.

  • World Cup 1 – Liptovsky Mikulas, Slovakia – June 22-24
  • World Cup 2 – Krakow, Poland - June 29 - July 1
  • World Cup 3 – Augsburg, Germany – July 6-8
  • Junior & U23 World Championship, Ivrea, Italy – July 17-22
  • World Cup 4 – Tacen, Slovenia – August 31 - September 1
  • World Cup Final – Seu, Spain – September 7-9
  • Slalom Senior World Championships – Deodoro, Brazil – September 25-30

C1M – Expect new names on the podium

Benjamin Savsek (SLO) moved to the top rung of the ladder with his deserved gold medal in Pau. He has had a medal in each of the last four ICF World Championships.

New European Champion is Ryan Westley (GBR). He commented, “It’s nice to have won my first title and getting a result is great but it doesn't make you any better or worse than you were the day before. I can take some good confidence from delivering my best when it counted and try and do the same again. This season we have some great World Cup venues; Liptovsky Mikulas was the site of my first international race back in 2009. I always love going back there and of course getting an opportunity to race on the Olympic course in Rio.”

The ICF No. 1 World Ranking remains in Slovakian hands with Alexander Slafkovsky, 35. Expect too, Olympic silver medallist, Matej Benus (SVK), Germany’s World Cup series winner, Sideris Tasiadis, 28, and 2016 Olympic Champion Denis Gargaud Chanut (FRA).

From outside Europe, don’t discount, the Olympic bronze medallist Takuya Haneda (JPN), who will be seeking another boost when he races again in Deodoro for this year’s World Championships. Fabien Lefevre (USA), the Deep Creek World Champion, is back on the team for 2018. There will be plenty of tight racing in the C1M class and with new names on the podium.

C1W – Olympic funded growth

The C1W class athletes are benefiting from full Olympic class funding with two World Championships remaining that will become important in the selection of country spots.

World Cup Champion in 2016, Mallory Franklin (GBR) added the world title to her string of wins in C1W.

New European Champion, Viktoria Wolffhardt, remarked “I still can't believe I am European Champion. I wonder how long it will still take until I can fully enjoy it. But I am really happy with my run and my fight to the finish line. There are a lot of exciting races ahead, and I can't wait to hit the start line again. I love seeing C1 ladies going better and better every race. It's impressing how self-confident and smooth the girls are going down hard courses.”

Jess Fox (AUS), still just 24 has three World Championship and World Cup series titles to her name.

In Pau, Ana Satila won the first ICF World Championship medal for Brazil.

Expect Jasmin Schornberg (GER) to be highly competitive in her C1W debut this season. “After I started last year with C1, I am very excited to race in Krakow, my first World Cup in C1. I enjoy every moment on the water in C1,” described Schornberg.

K1M – Kauzer on resurgent form

Peter Kauzer (SLO) last won the European Championships between his two consecutive World Championships in 2010. This month in Prague he became the 2018 European Champion. On the back of an Olympic and World Championship medal in 2016 and 2017 respectively, we see a resurgence to his form.

“My main goal of the season is the world championships and improving the result from last year's Pau. I have started the season the way I could only wish. Besides the win at the European Championships I am very happy that my runs are constant and without mistakes, but at the same time fast,” says Kauzer. “Men's kayak is improving with each year, competition is getting stronger, and in such a tight competition you cannot afford any mistakes, because they take you away from the medals or even the final. At the same time, it is true that with tougher competition there are more mistakes, especially among younger, inexperienced paddlers. But the most important thing is that after so many years I am still among them.”

The Czechs have three paddlers in the top 10 ICF World Ranking. Ondrej Tunka is the reigning World Champion. Vit Prindis is the World Cup Champion. Jiri Prskavec is an Olympic bronze medallist. The first hurdle for Prskavec was making the 2018 Czech team.

“I was working on clean runs before this season. I think I have good speed and once I keep it clean I can be on the podium often,” remarks Prskavec. “I want to enjoy World Cups now, then have some time off and then start preparing for the Worlds. I will want to make a final there, and then we will see.”

Olympic silver medallist, Vavra Hradilek did not make the cut to the Czech team again in 2018. It did not go un-noticed that Hradilek was such an accomplished forerunner at the European Championships on his home course, that he would have been 4th in the semi-final.

Among the Rio Olympic finalists, the top U23 paddler remains Olympian Jakub Grigar (SVK), 4th in the ICF World Ranking. Rio Olympic Champion, Joe Clarke (GBR) is still consistently in the finals and will be excited to return to the Deodoro course in Rio.

K1W – Building towards a close final in Rio

Ricarda Funk (GER) now tops the ICF ranking as World no.1. For those with a good memory, she won the heat and semi-final at the Deodoro text event in late 2015. 26-year-old Funk will be keen to make her mark in the hunt for her first World title in September.

1992 Olympic Champion, Lisa Micheler-Jones (GER) shares her view, “We saw at the European Championship, Rici [Funk] is in good shape. She had a perfect run in Prague. She sounds self-confident and looks very fit. She will do her best to end up under the top three ladies in each of the five World Cup races and try to reach for gold at the Worlds in Rio.”

Our World Champions over the last few years have been Jess Fox (AUS) in 2014 & 2017, Katerina Kudejova (CZE) in 2015, plus Rio Olympic Champion Maialen Chourraut (ESP).

“I’m excited to be back on the start line for the World Cups. First, in Liptovsky, it’s been a few years since I’ve been back here, so it’s nice to return to this course. I am also excited to race in Augsburg because it’s such a great venue. We are heading back to Rio too which should be interesting, and I’m looking forward to being back on that course.” Notes Jess Fox. “I think, as with every year, some great battles on the water are to be expected! Just looking at the European championships, the level of the women is impressive, and there have been some close finals. The women are pushing the lines and techniques, and I think this will show this season.”

Top U23 is Ana Satila (BRA) who is now ranked 6th in K1W. After disappointment at the Rio Olympics, she will be looking for home course advantage in September. She could well be on the podium again.

2017 silver medallist at the Pau World Championships and 2006 World Champion, Jana Dukatova (SVK), had a beautiful baby girl, Livka, in June and is absent from racing in the 2018 season.

EXTREME CANOE SLALOM

Again, expect to see extreme canoe slalom featuring through the 2018 season. In a recent interview, ICF President Jose Perurena said that the development of the discipline was an exciting sign of how the sport is innovating. https://guydresser.com/2018/06/03/kayak-cross-a-bright-future-for-wildwater-canoeing-icf/

We will be making full use of the character account on Twitter. Please follow @PlanetCanoe and use hashtag #ICFslalom.

John Gregory - @gregiej

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