German pair eye off hat trick of canoe sprint world titles at Szeged

Usually when a pair of athletes who have dominated their sport for so long finally get beaten, you would expect a fair amount of disappointment.

But when Germany’s Yul Oeltze and Peter Kretschmer, two-time world champions, had to settle for C2 1000 silver at a canoe sprint world cup in Duisburg this year, they didn’t really care who beat them. For the record, it was the Chinese pair of Hao Liu and Pengfei Zheng.

What mattered more to them was the boat that finished fourth – German rivals and reigning Olympic champions, Sebastian Brendel and Jan Vendrey. The first German boat to cross the line booked themselves a place in next week’s ICF canoe sprint world championships in Szeged.

Oeltze and Kretschmer deserve to start as gold medal favourites in the men’s C2 1000 at next week’s championships and Olympic qualifiers in Hungary, and not just because they have been almost unbeatable since 2017.

They have beaten the best the world can throw at them, but in many ways that’s been the easy part. The biggest challenge for Oeltze and Kretschmer is sometimes just proving they are the best in their own country.

Constantly nipping at their heels are Brendel and Vendrey, the best in the world in 2016 with Olympic gold medals to prove it. Since Rio Brendel and Vendrey haven’t been able to get close to Oeltze and Kretschmer, but that hasn’t stopped them trying.

Kretschmer also has a C2 1000 Olympic gold medal. He partnered Kurt Kuschela to the top of the podium in London in 2012, and has been in stunning form alongside Oeltze since Rio.

In Duisburg this year the two boats lined up alongside each other. It was billed as one of the races of the season, but it became a bit of a fizzer when the Chinese finished over the top of both German crews to take gold.

Oeltze and Kretschmer didn’t care; they’d finished almost four seconds ahead of Brendel and Vandrey, and in doing so booked their place in next week’s world championships.

Brendel and Vendrey are sure to still be plotting a way to qualify themselves for Tokyo, but in Szeged they’ll watch and cheer on their German teammates as they strive for a hat-trick of C2 1000 world titles.

Among those trying to end the German domination of this event will be Rio silver medalists Erlon do Souza Silva and Isaquias dos Santos. The Brazilians were world champions in Milan in 2015, and finished fourth in 2017.

Also keep an eye on the Cubans, Serguey Torres Madrigal and Fernando Jorge Enriquez. Silver medalists behind Oeltze and Kretschmer at the last two world championships , evergreen Madrigal keeps getting better with age.

The veteran began his Olympic career in Beijing in 2008, finished sixth with Jorge Fernando in Rio, and would love nothing more than to break through for that elusive gold medal.

Hao Liu will be in Szeged, but he will have a different partner to the one who helped cause the massive upset in Duisburg. Pengfei Zheng is out of the boat, replaced by Hao Wang. China has incredible depth in the canoe classes, and the Liu/Wang combination is certain to attract attention in Hungary.

Russia’s Kirill Shamshurin and Ilya Pervukhin, third at last year’s world championships, will be back in action in Szeged, while Martin Fuksa and his younger brother, Petr, will also form an interesting combination.

2016 OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS

Gold: Brendel/Vandrey (GER)

Silver: de Souza/dos Santos (BRA)

Bronze: Ianchuk/Mishchuk (UKR)

2018 WORLD CHAMPIONS

Gold: Oeltze/Kretschmer (GER)

Silver: Madrigal/Enrique (CUB)

Bronze: Shamshurin/Pervukhin (RUS)

2017 WORLD CHAMPIONS

Gold: Oeltze/Kretschmer (GER)

Silver: Madrigal/Enriquez (CUB)

Bronze: Melantev/Chebotar (RUS)

2019 WORLD LEADERS

Germany

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