After a few lean years suddenly 2024 is shaping up as a stellar year for Italian kayak slalom paddler Giovanni De Gennaro.

For a man of such prodigious talent, it is surprising to see he has not won more individual gold medals. Before this year he had five world cup gold medals over an eight year period, and a junior world title from way back in 2010.

But this year things look different. He won his first ever senior European title in Tacen, then almost had the gold medal around his neck at the opening ICF world cup in Augsburg, before a late 50-second penalty punted him off the podium.

On Friday he broke through for his first ever world cup win in Prague, breaking a run of two silvers and a bronze since 2021.

“I’m really happy, I’ve been waiting for this run for the last four years,” De Gennaro said.

It did help that two of the men who have denied De Gennaro world cup glory in Prague, Olympic champion Jiri Prskavec and world cups champion, Vit Prindis, both made mistakes in the heat, and failed to make the final.

But you can only beat those who race against you, and De Gennaro gave the rest of the final field a lesson in high-pressure paddling by finishing more than two seconds clear of the rest of the competition.

“I was always so close to getting a win, but the Czech guys were always really really fast. So today I’m just happy that I was able to put down a solid run,” he said.

“I usually don’t look at the start list for the final, I just try to focus on me. I know with them in the final it would be much harder to take the win, but today was like this and I won’t complain about the fact they weren’t there.”

There is no better time to hit a rich vein of form than in the lead-up to the Olympic Games. De Gennaro is the first to admit the Games have proved difficult for him at his past two appearances.

He finished seventh in the final in Rio at his Olympic debut in Rio, and then failed to make the final in Tokyo.

Does this year feel different for the 31-year-old?

“I’m happy with my paddling, I feel great, I really like the boat I’m paddling now, it gives me a lot of confidence,” De Gennaro said.

“I just hope to keep going to the Olympics, and even after the Olympics to keep this confidence and push harder and have good runs.

“I don’t know if I am the same person I was in Tokyo, but for sure I will try my best to improve my results in Paris. My experience at the Games are not really good in the past, so I have to learn from my mistakes and try and be myself this time.

“Whatever will come, it will be good. I just want to be myself and put down my run and have no regrets.”

De Gennaro will skip the next world cup in Krakow. The next time he takes to the water in an international event will be the Olympics.

“I will go home now and rest,” he said.

“We have a training camp in two weeks in Paris, so I think it’s time to train and focus on the Olympics.”

Pics by Dezso Vekassy

Italy Giovanni De Gennaro Prague 2024

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