Slalom World Cup arrives in Tacen, where one drop can make all the difference

No-one knows better than Peter Kauzer the legend of ‘The Drop’ at the famous Tacen canoe slalom course in Slovenia.

“Tacen is famous for its drop, everyone is afraid of it, even though it is the easiest part,” the Slovenian said, with just a hint of mischief, on the eve of the fourth ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup, starting Friday.

“But we will see how it goes.”

Not everyone would agree with Kauzer that ‘The Drop’ is the easiest part, but not everyone gets the chance to train on the course week-in, week-out like Kauzer does.

What instils fear in a lot of paddlers is the possibility of making a mistake going over the drop, and crushing your hopes even before reaching the first gate.

“I was afraid the first time I ran it, which was about 23 years ago,” 34-year-old Kauzer, a two-time World Champion and Olympic silver medallist, concedes.

“But I was just like a little kid. It was a pretty scary moment, but it was okay. I survived it.”

Kauzer will start favourite in the men’s K1, but while the fields are slightly smaller than usual, there is no shortage of talent.

The Czechs have their big three in action – reigning world champion Onjrej Tunka, reigning World Cup winner, Vit Prindis, and 2016 Olympic bronze medallist, Jiri Prskavec.

Most interest in the women’s event will be on Jessica Fox. The Australian has not been beaten in either K1 or C1 in three world cups so far this season, an incredible record that she is looking to extend in Slovenia.

But the big names are all lining up to challenge her dominance, with Germany’s Ricarda Funk, Austria’s Corinna Kuhnle and Italy’s Stefanie Horn all poised to strike in the K1.

In the C1, Austrian pair Nadine Weratschnig and Viktoria Wolffhardt, and Czech Teresa Fiserova, will be ready to pounce if Fox makes the slightest mistake on the challenging Tacen course.

The men’s C1 is full of talent, including Rio gold medallist, Denis Gargaud-Chanut, reigning world champion, Benjamin Savsek, the talented Slovakian trio of Michal Martikan, Alexander Slafkovsky and Matej Benus, and Germany’s Sideris Tasiadis.

And some last-minute advice from the local lad ahead of this weekend?

“It is very special for me to compete here, because this is where I train for most of the year,” Kauzer said.

“But it is also pretty tricky, because the water is changing a lot and you need to be prepared for every single moment.

“If you get bad water, than it can be a problem. It can mean two seconds difference.

“But it is challenging, and that is what makes it interesting.”

The fourth ICF 2018 Canoe Slalom World Cup begins in Tacen, Slovenia, on Friday and runs through until Sunday.

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