For nearly all the athletes competing at the ICF canoe sprint world cup in Racice the challenges thrown up by the Covid pandemic over the past two season seem like a distant and very bad memory.

For nearly all. Hong Kong China's Tsz Cheung and his six teammates have arrived in the Czech Republic straight from a lockdown which has kept them housebound for the past two months. It’s not the ideal preparation to take on the world’s best in the heart of Europe.

“It’s not the best, because the Government is always closing the training centre, so I need to sit at home and not train,” Cheung said.

“We didn’t train for three months, and then came out, and now back at home for two months. So our power is not very good. I hope the Government will open again the training centre very soon.”

“We hope we can stay in Europe and train, maybe in Hungary because our old coach is in Hungary. So we don’t have coaching in Hong Kong.

“Out sport is struggling in Hong Kong, because we all have jobs so it is hard to train anyway.”

For some teams Covid is not the problem so much. It’s more they don’t have the equipment and coaching available to match with the bigger teams.

Jeffrey Peralta is Guatemala’s only athlete in Racice. On Friday he competed in both the men’s K1 500 and K1 1000 heats. The 21-year-old made it to the semi-final of the 500, and posted his best time in the 1000.

It’s a long way from the lake in Guatemala where he trains among a group of about 15 athletes, making the most of the few bits of equipment they have. Nearly all of it is second hand, and some of it is almost as old as Peralta himself.

He decided to take up the sport after his older brother began to paddle.

“It was very hard for him at that time, because there were not many people training, and he had to work, and he had no coach or trainers,” Peralta said.

“It is difficult, we don’t have many people training and all our boats and equipment are old. It is improving a little now.”

Peralta attended an ICF talent identification camp in Portugal last year and has spent three months training in Spain this year. His long term goal is to make Guatemalan history by getting to Paris in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028.

Pic by Dezso Vekassy

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