Belarus makes impressive return to international canoe racing

Belarus has celebrated its return to international sprint canoe racing with three gold medals, while Spain and Germany picked up two gold each on day two of the third ICF World Cup in Belgrade.

Aleh Yurenia could not have been more impressive in beating a crack field for the men’s K1 1000 gold, finishing in 3:24.772, with multiple world champion, Denmark’s Rene Poulsen, second I 3:26:328.

The three medallists from Rio were all in the field, but none could not match the consistent speed of the 2010 World Championship bronze medallist.

Yurenia was not able to compete in Rio, but said he is already focussed for Tokyo in 2020.

“My start and my finish were no good, but the middle of my race was good,” Yurenia said.

“I was so angry and had a broken heart not to compete in Rio.

“But now I have an eight-month baby girl, my life is good, and I am going to do my best to fulfil my Olympic dream in Tokyo for my little girl.”

Volha Khudzenka took gold for Belarus in the K1 500, her first individual gold medal, and in the very next race teammate Alena Nazdrova outlasted Hungary’s Virag Balla in the C1 500, the first time the Hungarian has been beaten this year.

The Czech Republic’s Martin Fuksa picked up his fourth gold medal of the World Cup season, once again finishing ahead of triple Oympic gold medallist Sebastian Brendel in the C1 1000.

“It’s absolutely amazing for me because I have never won four gold medals in a season,” Fuksa said.

“I started training in January, so maybe the long rest after the Olympics was good for me.

“When I finished all three races ahead of Brendel or (Brazil silver medallist) Isaquias it is great for my confidence.”

Spain’s Francisco Cubelos and Inigo Pena backed up their surprise K2 1000 gold medal from Szeged with a win in Belgrade, finishing just ahead of German veterans Max Hoff and Marcus Gross.

“We are surprised still, because this is still only our third race together,” Cubelos said.

“I think in the Europeans and the Worlds the other crews will be stronger, so we have to work a lot and continue to improve so we can be in better shape.

Right now we are very happy and we are  going to celebrate it, but on Monday in Spain work will continue.”

Spanish teammates Oscar Carrera and Rodrigo Germade won a thrilling K2 500 final, just edging out the French crew of Sebastian Jouve and Guillaume Decorchement.

The Spaniards, who were part of their country’s K4 1000 boat in Rio, have been paddling K2 for two months, and competition for places on the national team is heating up.

“The people who did not go to the Olympic Games started training at the start of the year, and the people who did go only started more recently,” Carrera said.

“But we are all aiming for this year’s World Championships.”

Germany’s Peter Kretschmer, who won C2 1000 gold at the London Olympics, teamed up with Yul Oeltze to win the C2 1000 final.

“We have been training together for two months,” Kretchmer said.

“For the last ten years Germany has had every year a different C2, and we want to be the C2 this year. We have so many good paddlers in our country, and it is possible to have a different C2 every year.

“Last year we didn’t go to the Olympics, so it is a big motivation for us to go to Tokyo.”

Germany’s Melanie Gebhardt was an impressive winner of the women’s K1 1000 final, finishing almost a full second ahead of Australia’s Jo Brigden-Jones. 

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