The overall season leaders showed why they are in prime position to claim 2022 world cup glory with outstanding performances on the first day of competition at the ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup final in La Seu, Spain, on Friday.

Australia’s Jessica Fox had a day out, posting best times in the K1 and C1, Slovenia’s Luka Bozic pipped teammate and Olympic champion Benjamin Savsek to be quickest in the men’s C1, and another Olympic champion and season leader, Czech Jiri Prskavec, sizzled down the 1992 Barcelona Olympic course in the quickest time for the men’s K1.

Fox continued with her excellent performances in kayak this season, where she is unbeaten in four world cups. She set the best time of the women's heats and finished the race 0.26 seconds ahead of World and Olympic champion Ricarda Funk of Germany. Funk had a penalty which brought her two additional seconds and pushed her to second place. Mallory Franklin from Great Britain was third.

"It was good. Before the first run of the weekend you are always a bit nervous,” Fox said.

“I felt really good on the water. I did all the moves quite nicely. It's not a super hard course, so it's quite tight and any mistake can be costly.” 

The best women’s canoe slalom paddler of all time and Olympic champion recorded another win in the afternoon's canoe heats. Fox was a second faster than French representative Marjorie Delassus, who had a touch, while Monica Doria Vilarrubla from Andorra finished the first stage of competition in third position.

Czech Jiri Prskavec La Seu slalom 2022

The winner of men's kayak heats Jiri Prskavec from Czech Republic also pointed out that any mistake can cost you a lot.

"I was surprised it was the fastest time. I felt good. The course is very easy, so I knew every little stop will cost you a lot of places,” he said.

“I managed to do a nice and fluid run and in the end, it was the fastest, so I am happy. I hope the course it is going to be a little harder, and if it goes like this, I am fine."

Spanish paddlers Joan Crespo and Miquel Trave were second and third respectively in the kayak heats.

In men's canoe heats the current leader of the world cup standings Luka Bozic from Slovenia navigated through the gates without any problems and stopped the clock at 85.34.

"If you do the run like this, you are of course happy,” he said.

“The course was not as easy as it looked at the first glance from the bank. I did really good today and I am really happy. I think the course in the semifinal will be more difficult.

"My wishes for the semifinal are just good paddling, like it was last weekend. That's all. It is everything I am thinking about now."

Bozic was 0.44 seconds faster than his teammate Benjamin Savsek, the Tokyo Olympic champion and second placed in the world cup standing. Italian Raffaello Ivaldi finished the heats in third position.

The heats brought some upsets too. Reigning European Champion Eliska Mintalova and Brazilian Ana Satila were left outside the semifinal in women's kayak, and the winner of the last world cup K1 race in Pau, Gabriel De Coster, also did not advance.

The World Cup final in La Seu d'Urgell continues Saturday with kayak semifinals and finals and extreme slalom time trials and heats.

Words: Nina Jelenc Pics: Balint Vekassy 

Slovenia Luka Bozic C1 La Seu slalom 2022

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