Home fans proved the difference for Slovakia's Grigar

Don’t ever underestimate the power of hometown support when you are taking on some of the best athletes in your sport.

Slovakia’s Jakub Grigar on Friday won a second U23 Canoe Slalom World Championship gold medal, and he acknowledged after the race that without the fans lining the banks of the Bratislava course, it probably wouldn’t have happened.

“Of course it did make a difference,” Grigar said.

“In fact I’m sure that was part of the reason why I won. After my mistake on gate 15, I was pretty sad and I had thoughts in my head that this was not going to be good, and this was not going to be enough for the podium.

“But I heard the crowd, I heard my friends on the bank, and they pushed me forward. I think they helped me a lot.”

Grigar, the defending World U23 K1 champion and a two-time World Junior Champion, won the U23 title in a time of 89.86 seconds, almost two seconds clear of Austria’s Mario Leitner in 91.89, with France’s Mathieu Desnos thid in 93.51.

It was a big turnaround in form for the 20-year-old, who two days earlier had complained of feeling flat after qualifying 11th for the semi-finals.

“It feels pretty amazing,” Grigar said.

“It was pretty good today, I just sat on the water, I didn’t feel too good but I felt okay so I just tried to warm up as well as possible.

“For sure this is really special, winning the World Championships title in front of your home crowd, it’s really amazing. I’ve met a lot of people that told me they came to watch me, and they came for me. It was pretty awesome.”

With another two ICF World Cups and the senior World Championships in Pau, France, to come, Grigar is hoping Friday’s win will kick-start his season.

But he knows there is a big step-up from U23 level to senior canoe slalom.

“You never know how it goes, that’s the beauty of our sport,” he said.

“You win some and you lose some, that’s what I love about it. Hopefully I have more races like this.

“It’s really different to win the U23 Championships because you know the senior level is somewhere else, those guys are pretty amazing and it’s hard to compete with them.

“I wouldn’t really compare this one, but of course I feel better now than I did before, hopefully it will stay like this for the remainder of the season.”

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