A long list of Olympic and world championship gold medalists will mix it with Tokyo 2020 hopefuls when the 2019 International Canoe Federation canoe sprint season kicks off in Poznan, Poland, this week.

Star turns like Canada’s Laurence Vincent-Lapointe, New Zealand’s Lisa Carrington, Germany’s Sebastian Brendel, Great Britain’s Liam Heath and Portugal’s Fernando Pimenta will take to the water alongside some of the world’s most promising, and determined, sprint paddlers.

For most athletes the main focus this year will be on earning Olympic spots for their country. Many of those places will be allocated at the 2019 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Szeged, Hungary, in August.

But competition is also hot within teams, where athletes are jostling for places alongside world-class teammates. Poznan will be an opportunity for those athletes to stake their claims.

Vincent-Lapointe will be looking to keep her perfect C1 200 record intact, ahead of the introduction of the discipline in Tokyo. Likewise Carrington, who has not been beaten in the women’s K1 200 since before the London Olympics, will be keen to send out an early reminder of her class.

Heath is returning to the K1 200, in which he won gold in Rio in 2016, after spending last season concentrating on the men’s K4 500. Brendel has been the king of the men’s C1 1000 since winning gold in London, but the rest of the field is closing in, led by Brazil’s Isaquias Dos Santos.

Pimenta was the break-out performer in 2018, dominating the men’s K1 1000. His win in front of a home crowd at the world championships was stunning, but the 1000 is full of class.

Team boats will also attract plenty of focus in Poznan, as countries continue to experiment with line-ups ahead of Olympic qualifiers. The men’s K4 500 will be a new event in Tokyo, replacing the K4 1000, which has forced coaches to reassess the best possible combinations.

Another highlight of the 2019 ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup in Poznan will be the emergence of several smaller nations who will be hoping to get to Tokyo next year. Athletes from Guam, Egypt, Cyprus, Georgia and Turkey will make the most of the opportunity to have international experience.

The entry list for Poznan has a handful of notable absentees; the Hungarian team will not be in attendance, concentrating on a domestic event, while Tonga’s Pita Taufatofua, who is hoping to qualify for a third Olympics in a third different sport, has not nominated.

The 2019 ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup 1 opens in Poznan on Thursday and runs through until Sunday.

Canada <a href='/webservice/athleteprofile/42883' data-id='42883' target='_blank' class='athlete-link'>Laurence Vincent-Lapointe</a> Montemor 2018

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