Germany’s Franz Anton will have much more than defending his men’s C1 canoe slalom world title on his mind when he takes to the water of La Seu in Spain this week.

In fact the world title will rate a distant second in his considerations. What will focus his mind almost entirely will be the battle to finish ahead of German teammate, Sideris Tasiadis, which will earn him a place at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

It’s a scenario confronting many of the athletes competing this week in Spain, the home of canoe slalom at the 1992 Barcelona Games when the event made its return to the Olympics. Every single athlete is striving to earn his or her country a quota for Tokyo.

The simple equation is that the first 18 countries in K1 events and first 11 countries in C1 events will qualify for Tokyo. But only one boat can qualify from each country, so if three Czech male athletes finish inside the top 18 in the memn’s C1, the Czech Republic will earn only one place.

This means the boats that finish 19th and 20th will then qualify, and so on until 18 boats from 18 different countries are through to Tokyo.

But back to the men’s C1. The year before the Olympics is the one world championships where most athletes are more closely watching their teammates than anyone else. For some countries, like Germany, it will be the end of their Tokyo qualifying process.

For others, like Slovakia, it is another important step in the process.

So besides Anton and Tasiadis, the British trio of Adam Burgess, David Florence and Ryan Westley will be locking horns. The Slovakian trio of Alexander Slafkovsky, Michal Martikan and Matej Benus will continue their incredible rivalry.

For 2016 Olympic gold medalist Denis Gargaud Chanut it may be his last role of the dice after a disappointing qualifying season for France. In his favour is that is teammates have also hardly set the world on fire, although Martin Thomas is looking the man most likely to represent France in Tokyo.

Slovenians Benjamin Savsek, Luka Bozic and Anze Bercic have had an even tussle throughout 2019. Bozic has found himself on the podium three times, and finished second overall in the standings, while Savsek finished fourth overall despite not winning a world cup medal this year. Bercic took silver on the home course of Tacen.

This year’s C1 field contains five world champions, headed by Martikan with his four and Florence with two. Both of these legends in the discipline are facing a tough battle to qualify for Tokyo, and would almost need to win gold to leapfrog their teammates in the race for 2020.

Will any of these baker’s dozen win the 2019 world title? Probably, but that will be a bonus. The most important achievement will be the blow they strike on the road to Tokyo.

It’s more than a world championships sideshow – it really is the main event!

2019 ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup 5 Prague <a href='/webservice/athleteprofile/35651' data-id='35651' target='_blank' class='athlete-link'>Ryan WESTLEY</a>

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