America’s Landon Miller won his first open canoe final and Frenchman Tom Dolle topped the leaderboard after the first day of men’s kayak qualifying at the International Canoe Federation Freestyle World Championships in Columbus, Georgia, on Wednesday.

Miller went into his final ride sitting in second position, but nailed his first trick to grab enough points to leapfrog Canada’s Zach Zwanenburg for the gold medal.

“I pulled it out somehow,” Miller said.

“Zach put the heat on and was beating me by ten or seven points. I told him I liked a good gunfight, thankyou for putting the heat on, I love you but I hate you.

“Leaving it for the third ride was definitely difficult, it put a bit of extra pressure on myself, but being able to get that bounce and timing it right with the wave just felt amazing.”

Miller will contest the C1 final on Thursday, and said his confidence in that canoe gave him confidence in the open canoe.

“I was just kind of born into a C1 so I don’t feel the need to practice too much in it,” he said.

“I feel that if I can do it in a C1, I can do it in a canoe. It’s all just about throwing it, timing, and hopefully the wave is on your side.”

Zwanenburg retained the silver medal he won last year, while Germany’s reigning world champion, Philip Josef, finished third.

The men’s kayak final is shaping up to be a hard-fought contest, with France’s Tom Dolle pipping USA’s reigning world champion, Dane Jackson, by a single point in the first round of heats. Dolle said he was glad to find some form after a slow start to the championships.

“It felt so good, I had a little bit of a hard time this morning and yesterday, it feels so good to get the feeling back in the kayak,” Dolle said.

“It was definitely a mind thing, it’s hard to let it all go whenever you need it. It was tough yesterday, but here we go again, I’m back in the game.”

Another American, Mason Hargrove, qualified third fastest on his home wave.

“I’m happy to get the prelims over, I definitely had some nerves going into my first ride which made me rush a little bit,” Hargrove said.

“I think local knowledge will help a little bit, helping me know what the wave is doing depending on the level. And having all my family and friends here, it’s amazing having so much support here.”

Dolle and Hargrove are chasing their first senior world championship medal, while Jackson is chasing his fifth title and his third in succession. Canada’s Nick Troutman, a world champion from 2009, qualified fourth fastest.

“I’m feeling pretty good, always feeling pretty good, I’m just having a lot of fun, it’s a little bit of a secret sauce that many people don’t realise. The more fun you have, the better you do,” Troutman said.

On Thursday the first junior events and the finals of the men’s and women’s C1 will be contested.

Pics by Peter Holcombe

France Tom Dolle freestyle Columbus 2023

Canoe Freestyle