Germany picked up three gold medals and the next generation of world-class canoe sprint paddlers showed they are ready for the sport’s biggest stage with triumphant displays at the ICF canoe sprint world cup in Szeged, Hungary, on Saturday.

18-year-old American Nevin Harrison, 21-year-old German Jacob Schopf, and 25-year-olds Emma Aastrand Jorgensen of Denmark and Conrad-Robin Scheibner of Germany all sent out a warning on the eve of the Tokyo Olympics that they are ready to shine.

In winning the men’s K1 1000 final, Schopf confirmed all the rumours that have been circulating in canoeing circles for some time that he was easily the fastest male paddler in the German team.

On Saturday he outgunned the past two ICF world champions and the best in the world from 2014.

Germany Jacob Schopf K1 1000 Szeged 2021

“It was nearly a perfect race for me. I showed my best performance, but I think there are also things I can do better,” Schopf said.

“I didn’t think I could win here, so now I think I’m happy, but I’m also confused. I showed what I can do in the K1. I think I can do both the K1 and K2, we are trying here to see if I can do it, and I think I can.

“The K2 is my most important boat, and that is still the fact.”

American Nevin Harrison turns 19 in two weeks’ time, and showed she has not lost any speed in the women’s C1 200 during the pandemic. Harrison is the defending world champion and will be looking to become the first Olympic champion in the new event in Tokyo.

“It’s been a journey for sure, I’m excited to see what I can do in about two and a half months,” Harrison said.

“Definitely there’s been some pressure lifted off me as I’ve become more accustomed to racing at this level, but there’s been the added pressure that there are a lot of people counting on me.

“I just hope I don’t let them down, and I don’t let myself down.”

USA Nevin Harrison C1 200 canoe sprint Szeged 2021

Rio 2016 gold medalist Liam Heath emerged from a difficult lockdown period in Great Britain to remind fellow competitors he is still the favourite for the K1 200 in Tokyo. Heath held on by a fingernail to take the gold.

“It was an incredibly tight race, as you would expect in a race of such high-class athletes after a year of absolutely no racing,” Heath said.

“It’s really good to get out here and race again. Last year I just trained in my back garden, but I’m feeling pretty strong. There’s still a bit of fine tuning to go, it’s just around the corner but there is still a way to. I’m hoping to peak for the Olympics.”

Great Britain Liam Heath K1 200 Szeged 2021 canoe sprint

The absence of New Zealand’s Lisa Carrington and Hungary’s Danuta Kozak threw the race for the women’s K1 200 wide open. Denmark’s Emma Aastrand Jorgensen grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

“The most important thing was to see where I am, and where the other girls are who are headed to Tokyo," Jorgensen said.

"Right now it seems good, but there is still some time to go so we need to go home and train some more."

Denmark Emma Jorgensen K1 200 Szeged 2021 canoe sprint

Sebastian Brendel has dominated the men’s C1 1000 for a decade, but on Saturday it was German teammate Conrad-Robin Scheibner who took the honours.

Brendel is only racing the C2 in Szeged, but Schreibner believes his strong win from lane one should put him in the picture for German Olympic team selection.

“I had the feeling I could really achieve something off the start,” Schreibner said.

“I hope this result proves my capabilities, I’m really looking forward to what’s coming this season. After two years of almost no international competition it was hard to know where I was."

Germany Conrad Schreibner C1 1000 Szeged 2021 canoe sprint

The third German gold medal came in the women’s K2 500, with Sabrina Hering-Pradler and Tina Dietze making a clear statement to German team selectors in their first race together.

Their teammates, Sarah Bruessler and Melanie Gebhardt, secured the K2 500 Olympic quota on Thursday, providing a headache for German team management.

“Sabrina is the best paddler in our team, so I am very happy to race with her,” Dietze said.

“But we need more races. I think it was good to win, because we hope we will go in the K2 to the Olympics. We will wait for the coaches to tell us.”

In non-Olympic events, Hungary’s Emese Kohalmi took gold in the women’s K1 1000, Spain’s Marcus Walz and Rodrigo Germade won the men’s K2 500, and teammates Cayetano Garcia and Pablo Martinez, fresh from earning Spain a C2 1000 quota during the week, won the men’s C2 500.

Ukraine’s Liudmyla Luzan, a bronze medalist in the women’s C1 200, took gold in the C1 500, and Hungary’s Bence Nadas won the men’s K1 500.

The ICF canoe sprint world cup concludes in Szeged on Sunday.

Germany K2 500 Tina Dietze Sabrina Hering-Pradler Szeged 2021

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