Everyone else might be running around wondering if something is wrong, but Spain’s Olympic gold medallist, Marcus Walz, is feeling very relaxed about his form so far in 2017.

The 22-year-old shocked many by winning K1 1000 gold in Rio last year, beating a crack field that included some of the biggest names in the sport.

But at two World Cup meets this year he has found it hard to return to his best; on Friday in Belgrade he once again only just scraped into the final.

“Everyone’s expecting me to win, and if I come second then they think that is very bad,” Walz said.

“But I don’t want to think about that, I just want to have fun and enjoy and gain a bit more experience on the water.

“Even before last year’s Olympics I had decided that this year I will take it a bit easier, because last year was such a strong year. I just needed a mental rest this year.”

But Walz concedes being the reigning Olympic champion does carry with it a lot of pressure, and the year straight after an Olympics is particularly tough.

“It definitely is, yes,” he said.

“After the Olympics I’ve definitely celebrating it very hard and I haven’t been training so much, I think so far this year I’ve been a lot more calm and it definitely shows in the water.

“But even so, I’m very happy to be able to come and compete internationally with all these great champions and still feel the hard competition.”

Walz has set himself the goal this year of making sure Spain qualifies a boat for the K1 1000 at the August World Championships. But his biggest goal in 2017 is helping Spain’s K4 500 qualify for Worlds.

And he’s also going to be learning how to cope with being the paddler everyone wants to beat, every time he gets on the water.

So far he’s not minding the pressure at all.

“It feels great because I now have all this positive pressure, that I always have to win now,” he said.

“But I don’t really think about that, I just want to be a bit more calm this year and not think about what I should be doing or not.

“I guess everyone is looking at me and trying to beat me in the water, but I’m very calm, and I’ll start very strong again next year maybe.”

At 22 Walz potentially still has several Olympic Games to come, and he gives every indication he plans to be around for as long as he can.

Winning gold in Rio was a buzz, and his life has been turned upside down since the Olympics.

“My life has changed quite a lot since I crossed the finish line. It totally changed at home, with my friends, my colleagues and at the club.

“For everyone in Spain almost everyone knows me. But I think the most important change for me is my mentality, knowing that I’ve been at the top, I’ve been to an Olympics and I’ve won and at only 21 years old.

“That’s made me feel very confident, it’s changed my mentaility. It’s made me always want to win, except for this year when I am feeling much more relaxed.”

So the message to Marcus Walz fans is don’t panic. Marcus certainly isn’t.

The ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup 3 continues in Belgrade on Saturday.

Pic by Balint Vekassy

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