Ten pointers for the Slalom showdown

John Gregory (@gregiej) provides us his top ten things to look out for at the 2015 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships, which also acts as the first opportunity to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The five-day competition will be contested at the Lee Valley White Water Centre, a canoe slalom venue constructed specifically for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Action starts on Wednesday 15th September and concludes on Sunday 20th; this will be the first time one of the London Olympic venues has hosted a sports World Championship and underlines the continued legacy delivered by Britain's premier canoe slalom venue.

One: History leans towards British success

The International Canoe Federation’s stella slalom event returns to the UK for the third time; the two previous occasions the championships visited these shores resulted gold for the host nation, with Richard Fox winning the K1M in Bala, Wales in 1981 and Lynn Simpson taking top honours 14 years later in Nottingham, England.

Two: It favours the strong

The artificial canoe slalom course, situated on the outskirts of the capital city, is considered one of the most physically demanding in the world.

Here's what the pros had to say:

“The Lee Valley course is amazing with such technical whitewater that forces even the most skilled to be on their toes. This course is in my top three.” Casey Eichfeld (USA).

“Intense, relentless, challenging and fun. When you’re online, it feels like you’re being shot out of a cannon, but when you’re off line, it feels like you’re being shot by a cannon.” Etienne Stott (GBR).

“The Lee Valley course is so much fun and always a challenge. There are a lot of stoppers you can use to create some difficult gate combination.” Ricarda Funk (GER).

“The Lee Valley course is probably my favourite course. It's powerful, the features are fairly consistent, but they are constant all the way down the course so there's not really a section where you can take a breather! To me it's a great artificial course, and unlike last year in Deep Creek, most athletes are quite familiar with it.” Jessica Fox (AUS).

“Perfect artificial course, big water with stoppers, drops, everything to have a lot of fun.” Nicolas Peschier (FRA).

“It's one of the toughest courses we race on. It's big water and with so many difficult stopper features.” David Florence (GBR).

“Lee Valley is one of the best courses in the world. We have all essential characteristics in one course. It's rare to have all water movements and waterfall in one course. It's also one of the most physical.” Emilie Fer (FRA).

Three - Bradley Forbes-Cryans (GBR) is the pros outside tip

Here’s the pros top tips for success in London, plus a wildcard for good measure. Interestingly, both Jessica Fox (AUS) and David Florence (GBR) highlight Scotland’s Bradley Forbes-Cryans in K1M.

“Sideris Tasiadis. He was the silver medallist on Lee Valley in London 2012 and I think he is a solid performer. He hasn’t raced loads this year, but I think he knows how to bring the good stuff on the right day.” Etienne Stott (GBR).

“I think there are quite a lot of athletes in the K1M class who can pull out great runs. One that comes to mind is Bradley Forbes-Cryans from GB. Obviously he knows this course really well and he's young, racing his first worlds with nothing to lose so he is one who could surprise the older guys.” Jessica Fox (AUS).

"Bradley Forbes-Cryans. He's put down some really fast runs this year and is an exciting young prospect." David Florence (GBR).

“I would give Maialen Chourraut a wildcard for a podium spot. I love her paddling style and she has definitely shown some outstanding runs this season. She deserves a medal.” Ricarda Funk (GER).

“I think Prigent and Kervella in C2M class can have a chance to be on the podium. They are young and inexperienced in elite races which can be good for them. And since their first race in the French elite team they're competing better and better.” Emilie Fer (FRA).

“I will say me! It’s hard season for me but I’m paddling well and I’m near to something good.” Nicolas Peschier (FRA).

Four: New champ guaranteed in the C1M

In a bizarre twist, neither the reigning Olympic Champion nor World Champion will be on the start line in Lee Valley. Tony Estanguet (FRA), who won here in 2012, retired after the Olympics; whilst the current titleholder, Fabian Lefevre (USA), is trying to secure US citizenship and has not been selected to defend his title. 


David Florence (GBR) recently returned to the number one spot on the world ranking after a successful World Cup season. Florence, a Beijing Olympic silver medallist and 2013 C1M World Champion, is regarded as one of the strongest athletes and is known for being cool under pressure. What can he do on his home course?

France’s Denis Chanut Gargaud looks to be back on top form following his World Cup win in the penultimate event of the season in La Seu d'Urgell, Spain.

The most successful C1M on the start list is double-Olympic Champion and four times World Champion, Michal Martikan (SVK). It is striking to recall that Martikan, at 17-years-of-age, took his first senior World Championship medal with a bronze back at the 1995 championships in Nottingham.

The Slovakian C1M finished the 2015 World Cup series occupying the top three spot in this order: Matej Benus (1), Alexander Slafkovsky (2) and Martikan (4).

Five: Race to do the triple for Fox

Due to be introduced at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the women’s canoe singles will contest a World Championship title for the fifth time when the event commences later this week in London. Underlining the disciplines new wave of interest is the competitor’s low average age, with many still able to compete in the U23s.

Jessica Fox (AUS) remains the number one athlete and favourite to add a third consecutive world title to her tally. She has an almost perfect record of podium finishes in the last two seasons and has never missed a final.

It is not however a done deal, Nuria Vilarrubla (ESP) has been strong this year including a win over Fox at the U23 World Championships. Meanwhile, Mallory Franklin (GBR) has taken second spot at the senior Worlds behind Fox in the last two championships.

Up-and-coming athlete this season has been athlete Viktoria Wolffhardt from Austria who finished the 2015 ICF World Cup series in third behind Fox and the 2011 World Champion, Katerina Hoskova (CZE).

Six: Tight at the top the K1M

This class is too close to call with too many top tier athletes to fit in the top 10 for the final. Last year’s winner, Boris Neveu (FRA) is the current world number one, and the most consistent athlete over the last two seasons.

Neveu's compatriots, Mathieu Biazizzo and the 2007 World Champion, Sebastien Combot complete a strong French trio that is likely to challenge the podium slots.

The Czech Republic’s Vavra Hradilek, Jiri Prskavec and Ondrej Tunka all have potential to take gold in London, but inconsistent results over the last couple of years has seen them often slip away at the crucial moment.

Germany’s Hannes Aigner, Sebastien Schubert and 2008 Olympic Champion Alexander Grimm will certainly be in the mix too.

London Olympic Champion and 2010 World Champion Daniele Molmenti (ITA) will look to use this championships as an opportunity to kick start his charge for Rio following a disappointing season to date.

Double-World Champion, Peter Kauzer (SLO) is back in blistering form with the 2015 World Cup Series title under his belt; but he will be conscious that his last visit to the London venue resulted in dislocated shoulder that sidelined him for 12 months.

Finally, Britain’s Joe Clarke has continued to rise up the ranks, finishing the World Cup Series in seventh, a position he could have bettered had he not been disqualified at the season’s opener in Prague for an underweight boat.

Seven: Olympic results give an idea of contenders in the K1W

Following an excellent performance at the last World Cup of the season, the London 2012 Olympic Games gold medalist, Emilie Fer (FRA) is showing signs of being back to her best, a menacing thought for those who go against her in the K1W.

Among the other London Olympic medallists, Jessica Fox (AUS) is the next one the list of true medal contenders. The 21-year-old is the reigning World Champion and currently ranked world number one.

Maialen Chourraut’s (ESP), constant podium placing throughout the season means she is also one of the favourites.

Double-World Champion Corinna Kuhnle (AUT) has had an incredibly strong season that has resulted in her picking up her second successive World Cup Series title, a victory that included a race win in Krakow.

Don’t discount the home nations Lizzie Neave, Fiona Pennie or Kimberley Woods. Pennie collected her second World Championship silver last year and Neave has placed as high as third in previous World Championships.

Eight: France aim for the elusive C2M gold


There has been three different World Champions in the last three years, all of which are here racing at Lee Valley. Interestingly, world number one crew, Gauthier Klauss and Matthieu Peche (FRA) are still chasing the elusive World Champion title. Will this be their year?

Joining them are London Olympic silver medallists David Florence and Richard Hounslow (GBR), reigning World Champions Luka Bozic and Saso Taljat (SLO) and five-times World and three-time Olympic Champions Pavol & Peter Hochschorner (SVK).

However, this season’s battle for supremacy throughout the World Cup Series has been predominantly fought between the French and Czech Republic crews, who have two gold medals each so far in 2015.

Nine: Up and coming nations

The French team dominated at last year’s championships in Deep Creek and with so many of the world’s best athletes in their squad you can expect more of the same this week.

Belgium, Poland, Spain and Ukraine have all been on the podium in this year’s World Cup Series and will hope they can make the breakthrough at the sports top level.

One year away from the Rio Olympics and five years until Tokyo, both the Brazil and Japan have started to bring through promising athletes, in particular Ana Satila (BRA).

Ten: The local’s legacy

Great Britain has an impressive history at this level: Paul Farrant won the K1M (actually F1M (folding)) in 1949 before Albert Kerr in 1977. Richard Fox and Liz Sharman became familiar names in the UK and overseas through the 80s and into the 90s.

Others who have won at the sports top level include Shaun Pearce, Lyn Simpson and David Florence in both the individual and C2M with Richard Hounslow.

The Great Britain team has also attained multiple-Olympic canoe slalom medals through Gareth Marriott (silver 1992), Paul Ratcliffe (silver 2000), Campbell Walsh (silver 2004), Helen Reeves (bronze 2004), David Florence (silver 2008), Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott (gold 2012) and David Florence and Richard Hounslow (silver 2012).

The Lee Valley Whitewater Centre is also the home of the British Canoe Slalom High Performance Team further highlighting the true legacy from the Games.

World Championships Timetable:

15th - 20th September

Tuesday Opening Ceremony
Wednesday C2 & K1W heats
Thursday C1M, C1W heats
Friday K1M heats
Saturday C2 and K1W semifinal, final and team events
Sunday C1M, C1W and K1M semifinal, final and team events

Use #ICFSlalom hashtag on Twitter. I will be live tweeting @PlanetCanoe during the race using this hashtag. Live results and tweets will be posted to canoeicf.com

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