Some of the biggest names in canoe slalom narrowly avoided heartbreak on the opening day of individual competition in horrendous conditions at the ICF World Championships at Lee Valley, London, on Wednesday.

Among those who flirted with early elimination were reigning Olympic champion, Jessica Fox, former world champion, Elena Lilik, and Tokyo silver medalist, Lukas Rohan.

Germany’s two-time world champion Andrea Herzog posted the fastest time in a dramatic women’s C1, while behind her a string of highly credentialled athletes struggled and were forced to take second qualifying runs.

Herzog performed best in the challenging windy conditions, posting an error-free run of 95.11, almost one second ahead of Great Britain’s Mallory Franklin, with Brazil’s Ana Satila third fastest.

“It’s really windy today, so the gates are moving pretty much, but I think I did fine,” Herzog said.

“I would love (to be world champion again), but I think all the other girls are pretty good and everyone is fighting for it. I was here in 2015 at the world championships, it was my first senior world championships, I like it, it’s challenging and tricky and physical.”

Fox and Lilik were able to qualify on their second runs, with Fox expressing her relief.

“It’s probably the toughest conditions I’ve ever raced in,” Fox said.

“I had to come back for a second run, which I don’t do often, and at a world championships that’s not how I really wanted to start. Those conditions definitely made it more of a nerve-wracking race, so I’m really pleased to have qualified and put that one out of the way.”

Spain’s Miquel Trave is one of just a handful of athletes in the men’s competition doing both the C1 and the K1, and on Wednesday he dominated the men’s C1 qualifying with a time of 84.07. Incredibly his run also included a two-second penalty for a gate touch.

“I feel really comfortable, I came here during last year for a few times, it’s a hard course,” Trave said.

“I always focus more on C1, I’ve been doing K1 just for a bit, but I spend much more time for the C1. I can’t relax because it’s a world championships, everyone wants to win, but to get the Olympic quota would be amazing.”

Italy’s Raffaello Ivaldi and France’s Nicolas Gestin, who both posted error-free runs, finished second and third quickest.

There are 12 Olympic quota spots available for both men’s and women’s C1. A total of 16 countries have qualified for both the women’s and men’s semi-finals.

The ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships continue on Thursday with the qualifying runs in the men’s and women’s K1.

Pics by Antony Edmonds

Spain Miquel Trave Lee Valley 2023

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