What was meant to be a big day thrilling the home fans didn’t quite turn out the way Slovakia’s Jakub Grigar had hoped on Wednesday, but his journey has only just begun.

20-year-old Grigar, the defending World U23 K1 champion, a two-time world junior champion, and fifth at last year’s Olympic Games, is one of the big local hopes in Bratislava this week at the 2017 ICF U23 and Junior Canoe Slalom World Championships.

On Wednesday he got the first part of the job done, by qualifying for Friday’s semi-finals. But it didn’t go as he would have liked.

Grigar qualified 11th behind France’s Mathieu Desnos. If you had asked him as he lined up in the starting gates if he would be happy with that, he probably would have said yes.

“I didn’t really enjoy the run,” Grigar said.

“I felt a little bit bad from the beginning until the end. I’m happy I made the semi-final, but hopefully it is going to be better on Friday.

“Even when I started, when I sat on the water for the first time, it felt pretty bad. I couldn’t even go straight, I didn’t even feel like racing.

“I don’t know what the reason was, but I just didn’t feel good.”

Grigar’s local knowledge, combined with better-than-average ability, was enough to get him across the line, despite his pre-race blues.

The passionate Slovakian fans will turn out in force on Friday, and Grigar will be the man they’ll be pinning their hopes to. Not that he is willing to admit it.

“I don’t know if everyone expects so much, but it feels pretty good to be competing here,” he said.

“This is the course that I know. We have a lot of races here and spend a lot of time training here, so I was really looking forward to racing here.

“It’s just really great to be at home.”

Grigar has had enough experience competing at the biggest canoe slalom events in the world to know what pressure feels like.

But if he is feeling uncomfortable being in the spotlight this week, he’s not letting on.

“I don’t feel pressure, I’ve learned that with pressure mistakes come,” he said.

“I just try to remain as calm as possible and just do my work.”

And to win a World title at home?

“It would be pretty awesome,” he said.

“It’s always great to win races when you’re almost home, like this is almost my home course, so I would be really happy.

“It would be a great thing to win it again.”

The 2017 ICF Canoe Slalom Junior and U23 World Championships continue in Bratislava on Thursday.

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