Rio Olympic medallists took a back seat on the opening day of the ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup in Prague, but the scene is set for thrilling finals action over the weekend.

In the women’s K1, the three medallists from Rio are safely through to the semi-finals, but it was Italian Stefanie Horn, eighth at last year’s Olympics, who posted the quickest time in challenging windy conditions.

She finished in 87.65, 1.61 seconds ahead of Slovakia’s Jana Dukatova with World Champion Katerina Kudejova in third place.

“I was paddling without being nervous because I really like the course,” Horn said.

“But I thought I was in delay, because I was listening to the speaker and obviously it was not quite what I was hearing.”

Similarly in the men, it was Australian Lucien Delfour who upstaged the Rio medallists, posting a sizzling 77.73 to finish ahead of Czech Vavrinek Hradilek.

“I was a bit surprised because in the past I haven’t done that well on this course,” he said.

“It’s the first time I’ve had a really good run straight away, so I’m pretty pleased. And it’s always hard to beat the Czechs on their own course.”

In the men’s C1 it was Slovakia’s Alexander Slafkovsky who headed a surprise top three, finishing in 84.88 ahead of Spain’s Ander Elosegi in 86.02, and USA’s Casey Eichfeld in 86.41.

“I like Prague, I like to race here,” Slafkovsky said.

“My goal was to finish top 20, so it’s worked very well.

But on Sunday it’s a new race, new course, so it doesn’t mean anything today.”

Possibly the most impressive performance on Friday was turned in by Austria’s Nadine Weratschnig in the women’s C1.

She posted a speedy 94.88 seconds to finish 4.55 seconds in front of Great Britain’s Mallory Franklin, with fellow GB paddler Kimberley Woods third.

In the men’s C2 the Czech pair of Jonas Kaspar and Marek Sindler were the quickest, their time of 93.92 well ahead of Slovakia’s Tomas Kucera and Jakub Vrzan in 96.41.

Saturday will see the finals of the men’s C2, the women’s C1 and the men’s K1, as well as Extreme Canoe Slalom events. 

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