South Africa's Andrew Birkett and Serbia's Kristina Bedek have tasted early success at the ICF Marathon World Cup in Shaoxing, China, on the weekend. 

Birkett and Bedek triumphed in the short course events, with races over three laps and two portages over a total distance of 3.6km. Speed and accuracy of execution of the race plan are critical in this form of the sport and open racing featured across all the classes.

In the senior men’s K1, Birkett, the recent silver medallist at the World Championships last month, just managed to achieve the win in a time of 13 minutes 58.1s, followed closely by Quentin Urban of France in 13m59.1s and Adrian Boros of Hungary in 14m00.1s. With the top 10 paddlers all finishing within 1 minute of the winner expectations are high for close racing over the long course race on Monday.

The senior ladies K1 proved more unpredictable with Kristina Bedek of Serbia achieving the win in 15m24.6s, followed by Anna Koziskova of Czech Republic in 15:27.1s and Lize Broekx of Belgium in 15:27.5s. World bronze medallist Jennifer Egan finished fifth over 40 seconds behind Bedek whilst Great Britain’s Lizzie Broughton had a strong start to be in second position approaching the final portage but then suffered a damaged rudder causing steering problems and a 12th place finish.

The late withdrawal of Nuno Barros in the senior men’s C1 class left the field wide open and it was Mateusz Zuchora from Poland who took the win in 15m43.5s, with Jakub Brezina from Czech Republic second in 15m57.0s and Balazs Dori from Hungary third in 16m03.3s.

The Chinese Canoe Federation deployed a number of innovative solutions as well as a large number of willing volunteers to deliver an enjoyable first day of racing and promises much for the 2019 World Championships.

Athletes also welcomed the provision of prize money for only the second time in ICF Marathon races with a range of prizes from 3,000 RMB for the winner of each race down to 1,000RMB each for paddlers placed in 4th to 8th.

Expectations are high for open competitive races over the long course on Monday as well as the long and short course races in Shanghai later next week.