Major upsets and crews racing together in their first season have dominated Saturday’s finals at the ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup in Szeged, with a strong tail wind helping paddlers set several world-best times.

Little respect was shown to Olympic medallists and world champions, as new names and new combinations upset the form guide in front of a big Hungarian crowd.

They were brought to their feet when local hope, 20-year-old Balint Kopasz, upset a field full of Rio Olympic finalists to win the K1 1000 gold.

Kopasz, who didn’t even make the final in Rio, finished ahead of Portugal’s Fernando Pimenta and Spain’s Roi Rodriguez, with Rio gold medallist Marcus Walz fading to finish ninth.

“I am very happy that I could be stronger than the Olympic medallists,” Kopasz said.

“The weather was very bad but I felt strong today.”

Russian Elena Aniushina, who competed in the K2 500 in Rio, was another to cause a major upset, upstaging New Zealand’s Lisa Carrington in a thrilling finish to the K1 500.

Aniushina, racing in lane nine, finished in 1:47:755, with Carrington second in 1:47:840. The time was just a fraction of a second outside the world’s quickest ever time in this event.

“I did not expect to win, but I was trying to concentrate,” Aniushina said.

“I did not know where Lisa was, but I was feeling very good from the beginning.”

World fastest times were set in the men’s C2 1000, the K2 1000, and the women’s C1 500.

Poland’s Vincent Slominski and Mateusz Kaminski, who won the World U23 C2 title in 2013 but had not raced together since, re-united to edge out Cuba’s Serquey Torres and Fernando Jorge in a time of 3:27:543.

Triple Olympic gold medallist Sebastian Brendel and his partner, Jan Vandrey, finished fourth.

“The teams here are very strong, so for us to win we can look forward to a good European Championships and World Championships,” Slominski said.

“We have only been back together for two weeks and now we have won, so we are very happy.”

Spain’s Francisco Cubelos and Inigo Pena came to Szeged having had only one event together previously, but showed they are a force for the future by storming down the extreme outside lane to win the K2 1000.

They edged out Ukraine’s Vitaliy Tsurkan and Oleh Kukharyk, winners in Portugal one week ago, with Serbian Olympic silver medallists, Marko Tomicevic and Milenko Zoric, finishing fifth.

“Our first race was two weeks ago, in the Spanish trials,” Cubelos said.

“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.”

One of the few athletes to stick to the form guide was the Czech Republic’s Martin Fuksa, who repeated his success from one week earlier in the C1 1000.

But he had to withstand a strong challenge from Rio silver medallist, Brazil’s Isaquias Santos.

“The wind coming from behind is good for me, because the 1000 is such a long race,” he said.

“I was faster than Sebastian (Brendel) was last year, but Sebastian is such a good athlete, so I’m just happy to win.

“It’s still hard for me because having a second race in a week is new for me, but I felt good.”

Hungary’s Virag Balla followed up her four gold medals from Portugal with another convincing win in the women’s C1 500.

Spurred on by a vocal home crowd, Balla posted a time of 2:05:035, easily the fastest time ever recorded in this event.

“I was nervous this week because everyone told me I had to win, because last week I won four races.

“So I felt this was a big project for me, so I could not sleep very much last night. But I had a paddle this morning and I felt more relaxed.”

France’s Sebastien Jouve and Guillaume Le Floch Decorchemont had only had a handful of training sessions together before this weekend, but made light of their limited preparation with a surprise win in the men’s K2 500.

“It’s not how many races we have done together, it is how many training sessions we have done,” Jouve said.

“We have done five. We will keep doing the K2, and also the K4, because that is in the Olympics.”

There was another popular hometown win for the Hungarians in the women’s K1 1000, with Dora Bodonyi repeating her success from Portugal with a confident front-running performance.

The 2017 ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup 2 finishes in Szeged on Sunday.

Pic by Balint Vekassy

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