The biggest names competing at this week’s ICF Canoe Sprint U23 and Junior World Championships in Bulgaria all impressed on the opening day of competition.

Italy’s Carlo Tacchini relished racing without two of the biggest names in the sport, New Zealand’s Aimee Fisher showed her passion for racing has returned, and Canada’s Katie Vincent won the early round of her eagerly anticipated C1 battle with Belarus’s Alena Nazdrova.

Tacchini has established himself as one of the leading C1 paddlers in the world, alongside Olympic gold medallist Sebastian Brendel and World Cup winner, Martin Fuksa.

He made the most of his opportunity to race without the German and the Czech alongside him on Thursday, and posted a comfortable heat win.

“Of course it is a bit different, but if you want to compete against Martin and Sebastian, you have to be ready in these kinds of races,” Tacchini said.

“I’m ready, this is a step for the World Championships so I’m quite focussed on the result.

“I’m kind of happy about my season, and I’m also improving, so that’s pretty good.”

Fisher began her defence of her U23 K1 200 with a solid heat win. The New Zealander, who has also made her name as a member of the senior team, said she had fallen out of love with paddling, but the excitement had recently returned.

“It’s definitely weird being the reigning world champ, I’m usually the underdog going into these things,” she said.

“I’m just happy to be back, and happy to be enjoying the sport again. The last year has been a bit rough, I lost the passion there for a bit.

“There were a whole lot of changes, and I guess I just struggled to adapt to them for a while.

“But it’s really come together over the past month, I’m just so excited to be able to come out here and express some of those really good things that are going on.”

Vincent, the reigning C1 200 U23 gold medallist, fired the first shot in her battle against Belarus’s Alena Nazdrova by winning her C1 200 and 500 heats, beating Nazdrova in the 500 metres.

“I definitely feel a bit of pressure,” Vincent said.

“But I’m okay with it, I’m feeling really excited to have that kind of pressure, because it means you are one of the best. So hopefully I can keep going at it and we’ll see what happens.

“It’s definitely a high-calibre race. There’s no risks to take, it’s going to be hard racing for everyone.”

The 2018 ICF U23 and Junior Canoe Slalom World Championships continue in Plovdiv tomorrow.

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