When one door closes, another opens, it’s just a question of whether you want to ignore the opportunity, or like nine-time canoe marathon world champion, Marton Kover, burst through and pursue a new challenge.

Kover has been the undisputed king of modern ICF canoe marathon for more than a decade, winning four individual world titles and five C2 crowns. This year he had been hoping to come to China to compete in the 2019 world championships.

He has arrived in China, but not for last week’s marathon titles. Instead he will compete this week in his first ever stand up paddling world championships.

The sport of stand up can thank a knee injury for bringing Kover to Qingdo. On Thursday he celebrated his 32nd birthday, on Friday he will race against the very best stand up paddlers in the world.

“I started paddling in stand-up in 2017, I train nearly every day in SUP. From the beginning of this year my aim was to take part in the first ICF world championships,” Kover said.

“I can’t predict how I will go, because I haven’t raced with the best. I have been in just one international race, and it was a small race, so I don’t know where I will finish.

“I’m excited about it because this event is on the ocean, and at home I paddle on the river Danube, so this will be the second time that I have paddled on the sea. So it will be interesting for me. But I am looking forward to it.”

Everything had been looking good for a possible 10th ICF world marathon gold medal for Kover. He and regular C2 partner, Adam Docze, had won the Hungarian championships and then finished second in the Europeans.

But it was then that injury struck, and a disappointed Kover had to withdraw from the Hungarian selection trials. But instead of feeling sorry for himself, he threw himself into the challenge of stand up paddling.

Kover does not need to look far to see how good the regular SUP athletes are. Hungarian teammate Bruno Hasulyo is a former world champion and has several international titles to his name. Kover doesn’t mind being the ‘unknown Hungarian’ for a change.

And he thinks he might have an edge on his more seasoned SUP opponents with his extensive canoeing experience.

“We have an advantage in condition because of the canoe, and we are very good on our side,” Kover said.

“I paddle on the left side in C1 and C2, but here in SUP we have to paddle both of the sides. At first it was very hard to learn to paddle on the right, I will always be better on the left than on the right.

“So there are things I couldn’t do on the right, but we have good condition, and that is an advantage.”

Having got the taste for major international SUP, Kover wants to continue with the sport, even when he returns to marathon. He’s become quite fond of his training sessions on one of the world’s most famous waterways, even if it gets a bit lonely.

“I nearly never meet any other paddlers but me on the Danube,” he said.

“In Hungary we are only a few in this sport, so it has to develop. I hope others will want to try it after they see this.”

The 2019 ICF stand up paddling world championships begin on Friday with the long distance races in the morning, and the inflatable races in the afternoon.

You can find the latest schedule, start lists and results here.

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