What better way to showcase your sport to a brand new global audience then to parade two of the biggest names of the modern era at the peak of their powers?

Canoe marathon is now officially part of The World Games program. It made an appearance in Cali, Colombia, but only as an invitational sport. This time marathon gets to sit at the big table, where first impressions are everything. Onlookers would have found it hard not to be impressed by two outstanding performances on day one.

Vanda Kiszli and Mads Brandt Petersen are the greatest canoe marathon paddlers in the world right now, and have been for the best part of the past five years. On a hot and sultry Alabama Monday afternoon the rest of the world, watching perhaps for the first time this sport of endurance and finesse, saw why they are held in such awe.

Hungarian Kiszli and Danish Pedersen have shown by their performances at a world championship level they are a class above the rest of the field. 28-year-old Kiszli has won every long course marathon title since 2018, and the past two short course crowns.

Pedersen, still just 26-years-of-age, burst to prominence in 2019 when he won both the U23 and senior marathon world titles in the space of 24 hours. He hasn’t looked back since. If anything, he’s put further distance between himself and the chasing pack.

What sets both Kiszli and Pedersen above the rest, and it was glaringly obvious at the Oak Mountain State Park on Monday, is the extra gear they possess. When they decide to turn on the power, it tends to blow the field apart.

Kiszli put her foot down on the final portage, turning what was a race-in-three for the gold medal to a one-horse canter to the finish line. Even she was surprised when she sneaked a look over her shoulder just how far behind the next best paddlers were.

Pedersen, perhaps a little more ruthless than Kiszli, decided to kill off the rest of the men’s field on just the second lap. His turn of speed was devastating, leaving opponents, spectators and commentators with mouths agape.

Pedersen was exhausted after crossing the finish line. He was also exhausted when he won the Under 23 in China in 2019, but it didn’t stop him hitting the water 24 hours later and blowing away a field full of world champions to claim his first senior title.

On Tuesday Kiszli and Petersen will attempt to double their gold medal tallies. The heat, and the ability to recover from Monday’s racing, will play an important factor. But they will both start favourites.

The success of a sport is often measured by the power and abilities of its champions. On that measurement alone, canoe marathon arrived at The World Games this week with its big guns blazing.

Pics by Balint Vekassy

Denmark Mads Pedersen World Games Birmingham 2022

Canoe Marathon
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