Opening Canoe Sprint World Cup attracts the stars

The men’s K1 1000, the women’s canoe races, and star-studded 5000 metre fields loom as the events to watch when the ICF Canoe Sprint season gets underway this week in Szeged, Hungary.

Some of the biggest names in the sport will be focusing on team boats at the opening World Cup event, while nearly all of the world’s best paracanoe athletes will be in action.

The men’s K1 1000 will pit the top two athletes from last year’s World Championships, Germany’s Tom Liebscher and Portugal’s Fernando Pimenta, alongside fellow finalists Balint Kopasz (Hungary), Miroslav Kircher (Bulgaria), Rene Poulsen (Denmark) and Roi Rodrigues (Spain).

Australia’s Murray Stewart, fourth at the Rio Olympics, also adds depth to the world-class field.

It’s a similar story in the women’s canoe, with the fledgling Olympic event attracting the top three placegetters from last year’s World Championships for the C1 200.

Canada’s Laurence Vincent-Lapointe, Russia’s Olesia Romasenko and Hungary’s Kincso Takacs will build on the rivalry that surfaced last season, with Takacs’s Hungarian teammate, Virag Balla, also expected to challenge for a medal.

The women’s C2 500 will see a re-match between three of the top four boats from the Racice World Championships, with Vincent-Lapointe and Katie Vincent squaring off against silver medallists Romasenko and Irina Andreeva from Russia, and Hungary’s Balla and Takacs.

Two Rio gold medallists will skip individual races in Szeged to focus instead on team boats. Most intriguing is the naming of Olympic K1 200 gold medallist, Liam Heath, in Great Britain’s K4 500 team.

Joining him in the boat will be his London K2 200 partner, Jonathan Schofield, as teams continue to mix and match their combinations ahead of K4 500’s Olympic debut in Tokyo.

As expected, New Zealand’s two-time Olympic gold medallist, Lisa Carrington, will sit out the K1 200 and K1 500 events in Hungary, focusing on the K2 200 with Caitlin Ryan, the K2 500 with Kayla Imrie, and the K4 500.

The men’s and women’s 5000 metre events have attracted several of the biggest names in canoe marathon, including Hungary’s 18-time gold medallist, Renata Csay, teammate Vanda Kiszli, Ireland’s Jennifer Egan and Great Britain’s Lizzie Broughton in the female event.

The men’s 5000 has among the nominated starters Hungary’s Adrian Boros, Portugal’s Fernando Pimenta and Joao Ribeiro, France’s Quentin Urban and Spain’s Roi Rodriguez.

 The introduction of three va’a events to the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics schedule has prompted several athletes to branch out into the outrigger canoe event.

Paralympic gold medallists Curtis McGrath from Australia and Great Britain’s Jeanette Chippington and Emma Wiggs will all race va’a.

Two additional gold medallists from paracanoe’s Paralympic debut in 2016 have also entered Szeged this week. Poland’s Jakub Tokarz will contest the KL1 200, and Ukraine’s Serhii Yemelianov will take on the KL3 200.

The first ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup for 2018 begins in Szeged on Thursday, and will run through to Sunday, May 20.

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