Donnelly takes time out from road to Tokyo to show her freestyle skills

Sage Donnelly, who could lay claim to being the busiest elite kayaker on the planet, on Thursday qualified first in the women’s kayak surface preliminaries at the ICF 2019 Canoe Freestyle World Championships in Sort, Spain.

Two weeks ago 18-year-old Donnelly was competing in the canoe slalom and extreme slalom at the ICF world cup, but showed she can easily make the transition by posting a combined freestyle total of 1146.67.

“It’s really hard to get the training balance right, because I do freestyle and slalom, creek racing as well, and stand-up paddle boarding,” Donnelly said.

“I try to do it all, but my main focus is slalom because I am going for the 2020 Olympics. I’ve been doing freestyle since I was seven, it’s what I started in, so I just put together a series of tricks that I am familiar with.

“I knew I had it in me, but I wasn’t fully expecting to get it here. I’m just happy to have pulled it out, so I just hope I can continue. It’s definitely a good start to the competition.”

It’s Donnelly’s first senior world championships. The 18-year-old won the junior world championship in 2015.

Poland’s Zofia Tula, who finished fourth in the senior final in Argentina, qualified in second place with 1063.33, the only other athlete to post a combined tally over 1000.

“It was stressful, but I am happy with that,” Tula said.

“The competition is really challenging but fun. The hole is powerful, but it’s fun. It’s hard to do trick-after-trick, but it’s nice.

“Next round I will start with my usual routine, and maybe I will add something at the end.”

France’s Marlene Devillez, the reigning silver medalist from Argentina, qualified third fastest with 946.66 points.

“I’m so happy. It was just a qualification, so I just wanted to get through,” Devillez said.

“I did a lot of moves, and I think I can do better and be more consistent. I was stressed, maybe I looked relaxed on the outside, but inside I was stressed.

“I’m happy to finally be in the competition.”

Great Britain’s Claire O’Hara, in her first competition since the birth of her baby daughter, will get the chance to defend her 2017 gold medal after qualifying eighth with 596.67.

The next round of the women’s kayak will be contested on Friday.

Poland Zofia Tula freestyle world championships Sort 2019

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