Home course knowledge has proved decisive on the opening day of the ICF canoe slalom world cup in Prague, with Czech athletes qualifying fastest in both women’s races and also figuring prominently in the two men’s events.

Czech’s Tereza Fiserova and Gabriela Satkova finished quickest in the women’s K1 and C1 respectively, while Italy’s Giovanni De Gennaro in the men’s K1 and Poland’s Kacper Sztuba in the men’s C1 finished on top of the leaderboard.

C1 specialist Fiserova proved the star turn for the home team, surprising even herself by qualifying fastest in the women’s K1, and then posting the fourth fastest time in the women’s C1.

“I don’t understand how I was first in K1,” Fiserova said.

“But my run was good, and my C1 run was good. In Troja we are at home, so it’s a beautiful day.

“At the European Championships I felt good, and I feel good here too. In the K1 I am still a child. I love K1 because I started paddling in K1, so this is in my heart.”

Italy’s Stefanie Horn followed her tied win in the European championships with a third fastest time in the women’s K1. She said making it through to the semi-finals in Prague was a big relief.

“Last year at the world cup I didn’t pass the qualification, so I was a little bit scared today because the course was quite easy,” Horn said.

“I was feeling a bit tired because of training, so I really did a hard final sprint because I wasn’t sure of my time. So to be in third place, I’m really happy.”

Czech Satkova was the fastest on the water in the women’s C1, booking a place in Sunday’s semi-finals.

In the men’s K1 it was Italy’s De Gennaro who produced the best run of the day, crossing the line without penalties and almost 1.7 seconds ahead of Austria’s Felix Oschmautz.

However Oschmautz did pick up a two-second penalty for a gate touch, which kept him from the top qualifying  position.

“I felt quite good, I had a touch at the beginning so I knew I had to do well for the rest of the run, and it turned out to be really solid and fast,” Oschmautz said.

“Europeans were very successful for me, with two medals. I’m really happy with my paddling right now.

“When you race at a world event, and you are warming up with your idol, it’s quite cool, but I like it.”

Poland’s Sztuba was a surprise leader in the men’s C1, with the 23-year-old finishing just point 08 of a second ahead of Germany’s Franz Anton. Sztuba said similarities between the Prague course and his home course in Krakow gave him an edge.

“I always have a really good feeling on this course, I really like it,” Sztuba said.

“I feel like it’s a home course, and the atmosphere with the crowd is really special. I felt from the start line pretty good, I knew what to do, and the course is not that hard.”

There were few surprises on the opening day, with nearly all of the favoured athletes getting through to the weekend’s semi-finals. Slovenia’s 2019 women’s K1 world champion, Eva Tercelj, was one high-profile casualty, picking up a 50-second penalty on her second run to rule her out of weekend action.

German two-time Olympic medalist Hannes Aigner needed two runs to book his place in the semi-finals of the men’s K1.

Saturday will see semi-finals and finals in the men’s and women’s K1, and qualifying runs for the extreme slalom competition.

Pics by Dezso Vekassy


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