Prindis looks to climb above the pack

It’s not easy being a canoe slalom paddler in the Czech Republic.

Sure, the facilities throughout the country are fantastic, the support for the sport is incredible, and the athletes always do well on the international stage.

But therein lies the problem. There are so many good slalom paddlers plying their trade throughout the country, that often world-class paddlers can find themselves sitting on the sidelines.

Take Vit Prindis, for example. By any measure he is an outstanding canoe slalom athlete; a World Cup winner, triumphant at last year’s Czech selection trials, yet a spectator at last year’s Rio Olympics.

“Last year I was probably best prepared ever,” Prindis said this week.

“I won the first race of the season in Australia, raced a very good Czech selection which I was able to win, but after it at the Europeans I was the first guy who didn’t make a final.

“That was the end for my hope to race Olympics. But anyway, I showed my class at the World Cups and was a little bit unlucky at the final race, where I was beaten just by two points when there were double points on offer.”

Prindis took some time off at the end of the year, headed to Vietnam for a fortnight, and came back refreshed and ready for another Olympic quarter.

Judging by his early 2017 form, the trip to Southeast Asia has served him well.

“I can say that the beginning of this year has been quite good for me,” he said.

“I managed very tough Czech selection to make the team and after it raced very good Europeans. We won the team race for the second time in row, and I finished fifth in the individual race, but I was hoping for a medal.”

So while competition for places on the Czech national team is red hot, and even more so for the exclusive places on the Olympic team, Prindis said there are some big benefits from being in a country where world-class paddlers seem to paddle out from behind every rock.

“In Czech there are four or five paddlers who can win a medal at the world races,” Prindis said.

“But to be able to race with them at the basic levels like every training session, and to compete in our domestic races, is very helpful.

“Everyone has a different style and together we learn much more. I am in the group with Vavra (Hradilek) so I mainly train with him, but we also have club trainings where we can compete with others.”

At 28 Prindis knows he still has time on his side, and he knows he will get faster. And there’s no better place to start the next phase of his career than at home in Prague this weekend.

“I still feel I am continually improving my paddling and I really want to win a World Championship medal.

“For me every year is important. This year I will do maximum for it but will probably not race the last World Cups, just so I can focus on worlds in September.”

The ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup 1 begins in Prague on Friday.

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