Summer Down Under draws world's best to Australian Open

Current Olympic and World champions are among the crack slalom field lining up this weekend in the Australian Open at Penrith Whitewater Stadium, Sydney.

Among the stellar field are 2016 Rio Olympic gold medallists, Denis Gargaud Chanut of France and Joe Clarke of Great Britain, and 2017 World champions Mallory Franklin (GB), Ondrej Tunka (CZE) and hometown favourite, Jessica Fox.

The annual migration of the world’s best canoe slalom athletes from the Northern Hemisphere to the Australian summer has been particularly strong this year, with many of the athletes spending several weeks Down Under preparing for another big European season.

Seven of the nine Olympic medallists from Rio will join the two form paddlers of 2017, Germany’s Ricarda Funk (K1) and Czech Vit Prindis (K1), in this weekend's line-up.

The men’s K1 looks particularly impressive, with Clarke and Prindis facing off against the likes of Rio silver medallist Peter Kauzer (SLO), bronze medallist Jiri Prskavec (CZE), London 2012 silver and bronze medallists, Vavrinec Hradilek (CZE) and Hannes Aigner (GER), and 2017 U23 World Champion, Jakub Grigar (SVK).

2016 Olympian Lucien Delfour will be Australia’s best chance in the world-class field.

The women’s K1 will be headed by Funk, who dominated last year’s canoe slalom World Cup circuit before finishing third behind Australia’s Fox at the Pau World Championships. Her duel with Fox in the kayak event will be one of the highlights of the weekend.

2016 Olympic silver medallist, Luuka Jones from New Zealand, has been in good early season form in her home country, while the British trio of Mallory Franklin, Kimberley Woods and Fiona Pennie will also apply plenty of pressure.

In the C1 events, France’s Gargaud Chanut will be looking to recapture the form which took him to a gold medal in Rio in 2016, after he had the disappointment of finishng outside the medals in front of his home crowd at last year’s World Championships in Pau, France.

Rio silver medallist Matej Benus and his Slovakian teammate, 2017 World Championship silver medallist Alexander Slafkovsky, along with London 2012 silver medallist David Florence (GBR), add to the class of the canoe event.

The women’s C1 field is headed by Fox, a three-time World Champion, and Franklin, the 2017 world title holder. Spain’s Nuria Vilarrubla, who won the World Cup title last year, and European champion Woods combine to make this weekend’s C1 field one of the best in many years in Australia.

The full fields and schedule for this weekend’s 2018 Australian Canoe Slalom Open can be found here.

Mallory Franklin (GBR)

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