Cedric Joly shed a lot of tears when he qualified for the semi-finals of the men’s C1 at the ICF canoe slalom world championships in La Seu, Spain, on Saturday.

A lot more flowed when he went on to win the title; not just because for the first time he was a world champion, and that he had also kept his Olympic dream alive.

It was a reflection of the year the 24-year-old Frenchman had been through. Joly might describe it as “trés ordinaire”. No-one would dispute that up until this weekend, it had indeed been very ordinary.

But the Cedric Joly who attacked the La Seu course on Saturday was a different man. Bold and confident, his semi-final and final runs had a swagger to them that suggested he was in a good place, and trusted his reflexes and his boat to get the job done.

When it came together, it was hard not to weep.

“I already cried after the semi-final, it was my first final of the season, the year has been super hard for me,” Joly said.

I feel really emotional right now, it is unbelievable. I really had a hard time qualifying to the team this year, so the whole season was complicated. I had a very hard time around July, after the second world cup, when I told my coach I was done with my training centre, and that I had to move.

“I moved to Paris, and I changed quite a number of things this summer, and it’s paid off. It was an amazing run, I love racing here, the crowd cheered me up from the first gate until the bottom.”

One of the first to congratulate Joly was the doyen of French slalom racing, triple Olympic gold medalist Tony Estanguet. The three-time world champion pointed out that Joly was maintaining a great French tradition at La Seu. At each of the three world titles contested at the 1992 Olympic venue, Frenchmen had won the C1 crown.

It started in 1999, when Emmanuel Brugvin took the honours. Ten years later, it was Estanguet himself who saluted the judge. And now, one decade on, Joly was adding his name to a glittering honours board.

“I think La Seu is French property now in C1,” Joly said.

“I hope in ten years it is another French guy on the top of the podium.”

Despite being world champion, Joly is not yet in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic team. His win certainly complicates the situation for the Olympic selectors, who had probably ruled a line through Joly’s name before this week.

None of the French athletes, including reigning Olympic champion, Denis Gargaud Chanut, this season met the qualifying criteria set by the French Federation.

It means the fate of Joly and his teammates is still unknown. A case could be made for each of the trio; Joly is now world champion, Gargaud Chanut is reigning Olympic champion and has been in better form since he swapped canoes, and Martin Thomas has been France’s most consistent paddler.

I think now it is up to the Federation to decide who will go to the Olympics, I hope they choose me,” Joly said.

France <a href='/webservice/athleteprofile/35681' data-id='35681' target='_blank' class='athlete-link'>Cedric Joly</a> world championships La Seu 2019

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