Ricarda Funk is not ready just yet to celebrate earning a ticket to her first ever Olympics, even though something unbelievably drastic would need to happen to deny the 27-year-old German her plane ticket to Tokyo.

True, the Germans still need to lock away that Olympic quota at the 2019 ICF canoe slalom world championships in La Seu, Spain, next month. That will involve finishing in the top 18 countries in the women’s K1, and imagining a final without Germany is like imagining a desert without sand.

So fair enough than for Funk not to scream and turn cartwheels on Saturday, even though every muscle in her body was probably urging her to do so. Her mind won out though, which underlines how different the 2019 version of Ricarda Funk is from the 2015 version that botched her attempt to get to Rio.

“Four years ago I was really nervous and I really messed up my Olympic selections,” Funk said after her win on Saturday.

“I didn’t have any good final runs in the selections. This is why today means so much more for me.”

Funk is not renowned for over-the-top celebrations. She is softly-spoken, usually cautious and mostly quite reserved after she crosses the finish line, no matter what the result.

It is hard to fathom when you talk to her, that she is the most feared women’s K1 paddler in the world today. While multiple world champion and two-time Olympic medalist Jessica Fox is vivacious and passionate, Funk is more circumspect.

Fox has been far more successful than Funk, but everyone, including Fox, knows what Funk is capable of when she is at her best. On Saturday she finished more than three seconds ahead of the Australian, who admittedly did not have her greatest run.

But four years ago Funk could not have pulled out a run like that, in a race that really mattered. Even in the past two years, her ability to deal with pressure has sometimes been questioned. Saturday’s win went a long way to answering those questions.

“I just try to focus on myself, and try to have my own run independent of the runs of the others,” Funk said when asked what the big change was from 2015.

So we tried to push her on what it meant to be at least the German-most-likely to be going to the Olympics in the women’s K1 next year.

“It will be great,” Funk relented.

“I don’t want to be happy too early, because you still have to earn the place, and there have been some nations in the past who have not earned their place.

“But this is a good position to start.”

Indeed. Bring on La Seu.

Germany <a href='/webservice/athleteprofile/35122' data-id='35122' target='_blank' class='athlete-link'>Ricarda Funk</a> Markkleeberg 2019

Canoe Slalom
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