Prskavec v Hradilek - let the battle begin!

Jiri Prskavec v Vavrinec Hradilek; it's not just shaping as the most intriguing contest of the Czech slalom selection trials starting this weekend, it could also be one of the biggest match-ups of the European summer.

Prskavec and Hradilek are both World Champions and Olympic medallists, but they find themselves squaring off over the next week for the one place available on the incredibly competitive Czech men's K1 slalom team for this season.

2017 World Champion Ondrej Tunka and 2017 World Cup winner Vit Prindis are both firmly ensconsed on the team, and can sit back and enjoy the spectacle of a contest that will be watched not only thoughout the Czech Republic, but by canoeing fans around the world.

Adding even more pressure to an already electric environment, the European Canoe Slalom Championships will be held in Prague on June 1-3.

The first two selection races will be held on the canoe slalom course on Trnávka in Zeliv this weekend. Haradilek, the 2013 world champion and silver from the London Olympics, does not take the selection only as a fight against Prskavec.

"Despite the fact that people can feel it is like a battle between me and Jiri, for sure it is not only about that," he said this week.

"There are at least five others who are ready to attack. From the young generation, I can mention Tomáš Zima, who can go pretty fast and is quite stable with his performances.

"On the other hand, I understand that there are two Olympic medallists and two world champions facing each other in battle for just one place. So it is very attractive for the public and media. I hope the people will come to support us thanks to this “campaign”.

"Of course, for me, it is just another selection and I was already dealing with similar situation before the Rio Olympics selection. I do not bother with it too much, I just want to enjoy the sport and I look forward to it very much.

"Jiri has beaten me many times lately but I also have a strong motivation to get into the team one more time.”

Hradilek said he holds no fear about the courses he'll be racing on.

"Trnavka and Troja are both ok for me mentally, despite the fact that I did not have good races on Trnavka in the last years," he said.

"But the nature and surroundings is so beautiful there and I like it so much that even if I do not show a good race, I always leave with a good feeling.”

PRSKAVEC

Prskavec, the world champion from London 2015, agrees the race will be much more than a contest between himself and Hradilek.

"There are people who have a huge motivation to compete on the home soil in Prague at the European champs," he said.

"They give all into this. There are five strong guys who will fight together for the last spot.”

Tunka, who has been in his fair share of team selection scraps in the past, heads into this weekend feeling unusually relaxed.

"Finally, I can enjoy competing during the Czech selection a bit more," he said.

"It will not be so stressful as in the past. But I am also working hard trying to prepare myself for the races so that nobody can say I did not deserve the place in the team.

"My family supported me in Pau very much, but I do not think they will be going to Rio with me. My father does not like flying so I have to manage it myself and feel motivated.“

PRINDIS

2017 was a breakthrough year for the affable Prindis, dominating the World Cup season and growing in confidence with every outing.

"It is very nice when you do not have to be stressed and you just train for a good race and a solid performance," he said.

"The Czech Cup will be a good competition and I see the guys are very well prepared.  Honestly, I would not like to fight with them for the only place in this moment. They are so strong.“

It's fortuitious for Prindis that he has the comfort this year of guaranteed selection. It's also a pressure time for him away from the water.

"I should present one part of my dissertation thesis in September so I am curious how I am going to manage this,” he said.

In the women's events, C1 paddler Tereza Fiserova feels the level of the performances in her category is rising.

"I do not have any particular targets this season, but I definitely look forward to the European championships in Troja where we can expect a great atmosphere," she said.

"I can say that this race will be a bit more important for me personally, despite the fact that the world championships will be more difficult. But I would appreciate the medal from Prague a bit more because it is on the home soil.

"I am very curious about the Czech selection races and the level of performances. It is all developing so fast and the girls are really on a different level than it used to be two or three years ago.

"Every C1 girl feels the Olympic atmosphere already. One of the big talents can be Tereza Knéblová from Olomouc,“ said Fiserova, who also prepares for the C2 mix races this year with Jakub Jane.

The ČEZ Canoe Slalom Czech Cup 2018 starts on the Trnavka in Želiv this weekend, May 5-6, and the Czech selection peaks next weekend in Prague – Troja (May 12-13). On May 13 there will also be the Czech championships.

You can follow the information on the national site www.kanoe.cz (Czech only) or www.slalomtroja.cz.

Facebook Český vodní slalom a sjezd or instagram Czech Canoe.

Czech Cup web sites: www.kanoe.cz/cez

YouTube Live www.youtube.com/czechcanoe

Online results Želiv - http://kanoe.cz/cez/trnavka Troja - http://kanoe.cz/cez/troja

Czech paddlers Jiri Prskavec and Vavrinec Hradilek

Canoe Slalom
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