Germany’s Ricarda Funk will find it hard to top a year in which she became both the Olympic and world K1 canoe slalom champion, but this week she hopes to create another slice of history on her Augsburg home course at the 2022 ICF Canoe and Extreme Slalom World Championships.

Funk would love to retain her 2021 world title in front of her home crowd, on a course which 50 years ago hosted the Olympic debut of canoe slalom.

Everything was going well for the 30-year-old until the Saturday morning of this year’s ICF canoe slalom world cup in Krakow. As she prepared for her semi-final, news came that she had tested positive for Covid.

She immediately withdrew from that weekend’s world cup, and the following competition in Tacen. Her preparation for the world championships was in disarray.

“It was just a matter of time that it would happen, I was running away from Covid for a long time and was really really careful,” Funk recalled this week.

“I missed out on two of the three world cups, I had to take a break to rest and to fully recover. I missed ten days of training and of racing, but now I’m back to the normal training.”

“This weekend is very special for canoe slalom, for Augsburg, for us. It’s always cool to compete at home. I think it is going to be a tough competition.”

I was running away from Covid for a long time

The 42nd ICF canoe slalom world championships begins in Augsburg with team events on Wednesday, and finishes with extreme slalom finals on Sunday afternoon. It is just the fourth time Augsburg has hosted a world titles, and the first time since 2003.

More than 300 athletes from 52 federations and five continents will compete over the five days of competition. All six world champions from Bratislava last year will be back to defend their titles, and all four Tokyo Olympic champions will also be in action.

Germany’s Elena Lilik, who won the women’s C1 world title and finished second in the K1 and the extreme slalom in Bratislava, will be another who hopes home course advantage will be decisive this week.

Frenchman Boris Neveu, who won his second K1 world title last year, and Czech Vaclav Chaloupka, a surprise men’s C1 winner in Bratislava, will both be under pressure to retain their titles with the Tokyo Olympic champions already in good form this ear.

Czech Jiri Prskavec comes to Augsburg with a K1 win at the most recent ICF world cup event in Tacen, while Slovenia’s Benjamin Savsek has a silver and bronze medal from the last two world cups.

Australia’s Jessica Fox will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing world championships in 2021, where costly penalties kept her out of the medals in both the K1 and the C1. The 28-year-old won gold on the final day in the extreme slalom.

Great Britain’s Joe Clarke comes to Augsburg as the defending men’s extreme slalom world champion.

Seven medalists from the 1972 Olympic debut of canoe slalom will return to the famous Augsburg course this week to help celebrate the 50-year anniversary.

Vaclav CHALOUPKA

Canoe Slalom
Extreme Canoe Slalom
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