When Spain’s Francisco Cubelos and Inigo Pena decided to join together in a K2 boat earlier this year, they knew it would be a risk.

Not because of their paddling pedigree; they had both been to an Olympic Games, so they could be certain each other knew their way down a sprint course.

Their biggest problem was that Spain already had a pretty decent K2 1000 crew, Gabriel Campo and Ruben Millan, fifth in last year’s European Championships and silver medallists in the K2 500.

The other potential issue was Cubelos’ lack of experience in crew boats. He competed in London in the K1 1000, but by his own admission had probably only paddled in a team boat twice in his life.

Pena, on the other hand, was a seasoned campaigner in crews, having been part of Spain’s K4 crew that finished fifth in Rio.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, Cubelos and Pena decided to throw caution to the wind, they won the Spanish trials a fortnight ago in their first ever race together, and on Saturday won the K2 1000 in the ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup 2 in Szeged.

“It was a very hard race, we had a lot of wind, so the time was very fast,” Cubelos said.

“We are very happy because we have done our best race ever, but it is only our second race. Our first race was two weeks ago, in the Spanish trials.

“We’ve had very little time together, so we think we can improve even further. We knew we were fast because we won in Spain against some very fast Spanish boats.”

The Spaniards, racing from lane nine, beat a quality field which included Olympic silver medallists Serbia.

Cubelos believes the wind was a factor, but the history books will make no mention of the conditions.

“I think today lane nine was the best lane,” he said.

“Yesterday when we finished second in our semi-final, we thought we would be in the worst lane in the final.

“But today the wind changed so it was better for us. This can change a lot, another day we could be in the worst lane, this is our sport.”

Cubelos also didn’t want to place too much stock on their defeat of the Serbians.

“We didn’t know that we were going to win here, but we knew we were a strong crew,” he said.

“Sometimes in a post-Olympic year, it is an easier year for some people, so we don’t want to think about beating an Olympic medallist. We will just continue to work to do our best.

“I just have to follow and learn a lot. We will continue working together.”

Ukraine’s Vitaliy Tsurkan and Oleh Kukharyk, winners in Portugal last week, finished second, with the Czech Republic’s Daniel Havel and Jakub Spicar third.

The Olympic silver medallists, Marko Tomicevic and Milenko Zoric, finished fourth.

The ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup 2 continues in Szeged on Sunday.

Pic by Balint Vekassy

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