The return of sprint canoeing’s most successful modern-day female athlete will be the highlight of the 2018 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Montemor-o-Velho, Portugal, this week.

Hungary’s Danuta Kozak became the first female canoe sprint athlete to win three gold medals at a single Olympic Games when she triumphed in the K1, K2 and K4 500 in Rio, taking her overall Olympic gold medal tally to five.

The brilliant sprinter took time off after Rio to have a baby, but her long awaited return, and a clash with New Zealand’s Lisa Carrington in the 500, will be a headline event in Portugal.

31-year-old Kozak has a full book of events this week, nominating for the K1 500, the K2 500 and the K4 500.

In her absence Carrington has dominated the K1 500, New Zealand has taken a stranglehold on the K2, and Hungary took last year’s K4 500 world title even without Kozak.

Other highlights this week include the men’s C1 1000, with three-time Olympic gold medallist Sebastian Brendel, Brazil’s Rio silver medallist, Isaquias Dos Santos, and multiple world cup gold medallist, Martin Fuksa.

Portugal’s Fernando Pimenta will carry the hopes of a nation on his shoulders when he contests the K1 1000. Pimenta has been the public face of the Portuguese event, and was in slashing form when he won World Cup gold in Szeged, Hungary, this year.

His biggest challenge is likely to come from Germany’s Max Rendschmitt, who upset World Champion Tom Liebscher in German trials this year, Czech Olympic silver medallist, Josef Dostal, and Spanish speedster Roi Rodrigues.

The K4 500 in both the men’s and women’s will be hotly contested events. In the women’s New Zealand is one year wiser after winning bronze at last year’s World Championships, Germany with Tina Dietze and Franziska Weber, and Hungary with Kozak on board, are set to once again fight out the medals.

And in the men’s, where the 500 will replaced the K4 1000 at the Olympics, the powerful German team will be looking to defend their 2017 World Championship title.

But Spain, with 2016 Olympic K1 1000 gold medallist Marcus Walz in the crew, has emerged as a serious contender after a strong win in the Szeged World Cup.

Canadian duo Laurence Vincent-Lapointe and Katie Vincent are expected to dominate the women’s C1 events, the new events on the 2020 Tokyo Olympic program.

The 2018 ICF Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe World Championships begin in Montemor on Wednesday with paracanoe events.

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