Olympians come up trumps on Olympic Day at Augsburg

Pic by Balint Vekassy

The Augsburg canoe slalom course where the sport made its Olympic debut in 1972 was kind to the Olympic athletes competing on the opening day of the second ICF World Cup on Friday.

Fittingly on International Olympic Day the 2016 Rio gold medallists all emerged unscathed from the qualifying rounds, although some of the minor medallists had to rely on second runs to guarantee weekend action.

Men’s K1 Olympic gold medallist, Joe Clarke, qualified sixth behind Olympic bronze medallist, Jiri Prskavec, while in the women’s K1, Spain’s Rio champion, Maialen Chourraut, went through in tenth behind Great Britain’s Mallory Franklin.

France’s Denis Gargaud Chanut was eighth quickest in the men’s C1 at his first major international competition since his Rio triumph, with Slovenia’s Benjamin Savsek the fastest qualifier.

Slovakia’s Skantar cousins, Olympic gold medallists who failed to make last week’s C2 World Cup final in Prague, finished seventh behind Czech’s Ondrej Karlovsky and Jakub Jane, while in the women’s C1 Great Britain’s Kimberley Woods continued her cracking 2017 form by qualifying first ahead of triple world champion, Jessica Fox.

Prskavec finished in 93.28 to head the K1 field from Slovakian speed machine, Jakub Grigar, on 93.94, with local hope Sebastian Schubert third quickest on 93.96, following on from his third place at the Prague World Cup last weekend.

“I was pretty happy with last week, it was my first medal since 2014, so I was pretty happy to be back on the podium,” Schubert said.

"I’m a bit more relaxed now then the past two years. I did a lot training and I was sometimes a bit too tired.

"This year it’s more fluid, training is a bit more fun.”

Franklin finished just 0.01 ahead of Austria’s Corinna Kuhnle in the women’s K1, with another Austrian, Viktoria Wolffhardt third.

Another looking to impress on her home course is Germany’s Ricarda Funk, who qualified sixth fastest.

“It’s not really easier at my home course, because there’s so much pressure with everyone expecting me to race well,” Funk said.

“I want to show my skills on the Eiskanal.

“I’m hoping to improve my performance, because so far in 2017 it hasn’t been my best.”

Slovenia’s Savsek posted a time of 99.70 to qualify fastest in the men’s C1, with Germany’s Sideris Tasiadis, a gold medallists in Prague last week, second fastest in 100.15, and anotjer German, Nico Bettge, third in 100.36.

Great Britain’s Ryan Westley qualified seventh.

“I was pretty happy with that run, I’d take two more of those for sure,” Westley said.

“I’m really enjoying my training and love doing these three weeks on different courses.

“I just really want to be in that final again.”

Woods has swept all before her in the women’s C1 this year, winning the European title and then the opening World Cup last weekend. Her time of 115.22 seconds put her ahead of Fox, on 118.02 with four seconds of penalties, with Spain’s Nuria Vilarrubla third in 118.89, also with two gate touch penalties.

Austria’s Nadine Weratschnig, quickest in qualifying in Prague last weekend, had to rely on a second run on Friday after picking up a 50-second penalty for a gate touch, but breezed through in 115.77.

“We had a switch in coaches in the winter, so now training is more professional, which was a good preparation for the season,” Weratschnig said.

“Every time I go down the course I wait for the next mistake, but when I go clean it’s really good.”

Karlovsky and Jane finished their C2 run in 108.78, ahead of the German combination of Schroeder and Bettge (110.13) with fellow Germans Behling and Becker third in 110.24.

The ICF World Cup 2 continues on Saturday in Augsburg.

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