Great Britain’s Mallory Franklin will head into the first ever Olympic semi-finals of the women’s canoe slalom as the athlete to beat after posting two strong qualifying runs in the stifling Tokyo heat on Wednesday.

Germany’s Hannes Aigner, a bronze medalist in the men’s kayak in London in 2012, continued his country’s outstanding week by qualifying fastest for Friday’s men’s K1 semi-finals.

Franklin, an ICF women’s canoe world champion in 2017, posted the second quickest raw time behind Australia’s Jessica Fox on the first run, and then went four seconds faster on her second outing to put herself into the number one position for Thursday.

“I really was just trying to use today as a bit of confidence building, to show myself I could put down some runs to show myself that I had the pace and could deliver, so it was really cool to be able to do that,” Franklin said.

“I’ve been a bit in and out in training recently. I’ve been paddling well, but haven’t really put good runs together. We’ll see what happens tomorrow, I haven’t always managed to do finals very well, but being able to perform and keep the boat running and have good pace is really important.”

Second fastest into the semi-finals was Germany’s reigning world champion, Andrea Herzog, while the Czech Republic’s Tereza Fiserova was third quickest. Four-time world champion Jessica Fox of Australia was fifth fastest, after picking up four seconds in penalties on both her runs.

Germany already has a gold and a bronze medal at the canoe slalom competition this week, and Hannes Aigner has positioned himself nicely to add to the tally with the quickest qualifying run in the men’s K1.

Aigner’s last major win came at the 2018 ICF world championships in Rio, and he feels he is paddling well enough to challenge for the top of the podium again.

“I’m happy with my run, but it will be worth nothing on Friday, so I will have to perform again,” Aigner said.

“In the semi-final I only need to be in the top ten, I don’t need to care if someone does a really good time, because again it is worth nothing to be fastest in the semi-finals.

“I thought about this every day for the last five years in training. It’s the big goal to be on the podium again, but it will be tough, there are a lot of good paddlers and the pressure is really high.”

Italy’s Giovanni de Gennaro put together two good runs to be second fastest qualifier, just ahead of Australia’s Lucian Delfour, while the Czech Republic’s reigning world champion and Rio 2016 bronze medalist, Jiri Prskavec, posted the fastest raw time overall, but with a two-second penalty for a gate touch, finished fourth quickest.

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Frenchman Boris Neveu, chasing his country’s first canoe slalom medal in Tokyo, had a nervous second run after missing a gate on his first qualifying run. The 35-year-old Olympic debutant eventually qualified in fifth position.

The women’s canoe semi-finals and finals will be held on Thursday, while the men’s medals will be decided on Friday, the final day of the canoe slalom competition in Tokyo.

Pics by Bence Vekassy

Germany Hannes Aigner kayak Tokyo Olympics

Canoe Slalom