The rough and tumble of extreme canoe slalom is no place for the timid, as Brazil’s Pedro Goncalves and Alsu Minazova of Russia both showed by clinching gold at the ICF world cup in Ljubljana on Saturday.

Goncalves and Minazova are regulars in the extreme slalom competition, and used that experience to their avantage on the demanding Tacen Whitewater course.

To succeed at extreme slalom there is a lot of luck. But a paddler also has to be smart – picking the right line to take, timing their run to avoid getting stuck in the traffic, and executing the compulsory eskimo roll at a time that will keep them out of trouble.

And they have to be aggressive. The four-person head-to-head format guarantees there will be contact, and the polite athlete will often find they are chasing the rest of the field down the course.

In the early days of extreme slalom, races were very much like a demolition derby. Athletes admitted they had no pre-race plan, which provided plenty of entertainment for the fans, but a nightmare for the judges.

But the growing popularity of the sport, and the push to have it included at the Paris 2024 Olympics, has led to a much more professional approach from the competitors. It is still very much a bang-and-crash affair, but the good athletes now know how to bang and crash more effectively.

Goncalves has been with extreme slalom since the very start, winning bronze at last year’s world championships and regularly finding himself on world cup podiums. Sporting a new moustache and a new coach, inaugural extreme slalom world champion Vavra Hradilek of the Czech Republic, the scene was set for the Brazilian.

Most of all he loves the camaraderie of the discipline.

“It’s more about being with the other people, together, the fight, and I think Brazilians like that,” he said.

“I like that, I like to race and I like to win. I just try to have fun, I do some creek boat racing in Brazil, and I want to do some big waterfalls – not right now because I want to prepare for the Olympic Games, but after the Games for sure.

“I think this helps me a lot. I just try to paddle hard, and do some nice techniques.”

Minazova is also now in the “experienced” category of extreme slalom, and has won world cup gold and bronze before. Given the advantage of the inside gate for Saturday’s final, the Russian was always going to be in the prime position.

“It was a really good race, I had a lot of fun,” she said after clinching the gold.

“Being first in the qualification was very important, because I got the number one position at the start.”

RESULTS

WOMEN

  1. Alsu MINAZOVA (RUS)
  2. Daria KUZNETSOVA (RUS)
  3. Ria SRIBAR (USA)

MEN

  1. Pedro GONCALVES (BRA)
  2. Martin STANOVSKY (KAZ)
  3. Tren LONG (USA)

Pics by Bence Vekassy

Russia Alsu Minazova extreme slalom Tacen 2020

Extreme Canoe Slalom
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