The journey to this year’s Tokyo Olympic Games has come down to one more race for a handful of athletes competing at this week’s Global canoe sprint Olympic qualifiers in Barnaul, Russia.

Athletes from all over the world battled on Thursday for a place in one of the six finals which offer an Olympic quota on Friday afternoon. For the men, tickets will be available in the K1 200, K1 1000 and C1 1000, while the women will compete for the K1 200, K1 500 and C1 200.

Athletes from former Soviet states posted the strongest performances in the cold and windy Siberian conditions, posting the quickest times over the 200 metre distances.

Mariami Kerdikashvili from Georgia was quickest in the women’s C1 200, one of the new Olympic events this year, while Russia’s Natalia Podolskaia, a former U23 world champion, provided cheer for the home fans by posting the quickest time in the women’s K1 200.

Ukraine’s Oley Kukharyk, the 2017 world championship bronze medalist in the men’s K1 500, was fastest in the men’s K1 200, while Lithuania’s Vadim Korobov, the reigning European U23 champion, was fastest in the men’s C1 1000.

Italian Andrea Schera posted the quickest time in the men’s K1 1000, and Poland’s Justyna Iskrzycka, a silver medalist in the women’s K1 1000 at the 2019 world championships, was fastest in the women’s K1 500.

Singapore’s Jiexian Stephenie Chen, who narrowly missed a Tokyo quota at the Asian qualifiers, also progressed straight to the women’s K1 200 final by winning her heat.

“Conditions are cold and windy, just a little bit different to what I am used to,” Chen said.

“But I think I had an advantage with an inside lane. I’m not really nervous, just excited to see what I can do. I’m kind of an underdog here, so I’m trying not to focus so much on what might be, and more on what I can do best.”

The 2021 ICF Global canoe sprint Olympic qualifiers continue in Barnaul, Russia, on Friday.

Pics by Bence Vekassy

Lithuania Vadim Korobov C1 1000 Olympic qualifiers Barnaul 2021

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