Of the three Frenchman competing in the final of the men’s U23 K1 final, Leo Vuitton was, on paper, the least likely to win.

After all, teammate Anatole Delassus was the reigning U23 world champion, and Titouan Castryck had won the past two junior world titles.

Vuitton, by comparison, was competing at his first ICF event, at the age of 22. How could he possibly compete with the teammates who had joined him in K1 U23 teams gold on the opening day of this week’s ICF Junior and U23 slalom world championships?

As it turned out, he could not only compete with, he could also better his much better credentialled opponents. Showing the sort of panache that comes with the freedom of racing without expectation, Vuitton clipped an early gate but still managed to set fire to the Krakow course.

It was a nervous wait, with four paddlers still to go, but Vuitton need not have worried. His time was not going to be beaten.

“I’m still very emotional. Its incredible, it was a dream, and now it’s a reality, so I’m super happy,” Vuitton said.

“This year is my first French team of my life, so it’s a big step. I will enjoy it, it’s a great reflection on the work I have done, it is paying off, so I’m super proud.

“Now I will push hard to continue and to achieve higher goals.”

Making the event even more special was that Vuitton got to share the podium with his two teammates. It is the first time in ICF Junior and U23 world championship history that one country has won all three medals.

“It’s something more special to share the podium with them,” Vuitton said.

“We are a strong team, so it’s cool. I will celebrate tonight, its not every day I am the world champion.”

Canoe Slalom