When Fernando Pimenta last year stood on the back of a jet ski, arms raised in triumph in front of an adoring home crowd, it was the culmination of a year of stress and expectation that had ended with the crowning of a new sport hero.

If Pimenta found the weight of expectation last year, in the build up to a canoe sprint world championships in which he was very much the face and the name, then next year it’s likely to be suffocating.

Portugal has only ever won four summer Olympic gold medals. None of those have been in canoe sprint. In fact, their only canoeing medal came through Pimenta and Emanuel Silva in the K2 1000 at the 2012 London Olympics.

Pimenta’s rise to favouritism for the K1 1000 at next week’s world championships has been steady. A bronze at the 2015 world championships, fifth at the Rio Olympics, silver at the 2017 world titles and then his dramatic announcement to the world last year – he’s reached the top.

It was no real surprise. The affable Pimenta had been European champion for three years running – 2016/17 and 2018.

But in the afterglow of his triumph last year, 2019 has been a bit harder for the 29-year-old than he might have expected. A silver medal behind Hungary’s Balint Kopasz at the European Games, the bigger shock came at the second ICF world cup in Duisburg, when he finished fourth and off the podium for the first time in a very long time.

The challengers for the world crown next week run deep, headed by the consistent Kopasz in front of his home crowd. Fourth in Portugal last year, fifth in 2017, he has been building towards this year, and his victory at the European Games suggests he is ready to challenge for the podium.

Czech Josef Dostal is also a model of consistency. A silver medalist at the Rio Olympics, bronze medals at the past two world championships, the big Czech is rarely out of the top three at major international events.

His victory in Duisburg was long overdue, and he declared after the race he had changed his mental approach to racing, which was obviously paying dividends.

Veterans Rene Poulson of Denmark and Peter Gelle of Slovakia will always give a strong account of themselves, and the speedy Spaniard Roi Rodriguez and the Frenchman Etienne Hubert are also both certain to provide headaches in a very open world championship race.


Gold: Marcus Walz (ESP)

Silver: Josef Dostal (CZE)

Bronze: Roman Anoshkin (RUS)


Gold: Tom Liebscher (GER)

Silver: Fernando Pimenta (POR)

Bronze: Josef Dostal (CZE)


Gold: Fernando Pimenta (POR)

Silver: Max Rendschmidt (GER)

Bronze: Josef Dostal (CZE)


Gold: Balint Kopasz (HUN)

Silver: Fernando Pimenta (POR)

Bronze: Aleh Yurenia (BLR)


Fernando Pimenta (POR)

Canoe Sprint
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