While their country is at war and cleaning up debris, Ukraine paddlers cleaned up at the ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup in Racice.
Ukraine’s Oleh Kukharyk and Ihor Trunov fought back tears after storming home to win the men’s K2 500, a new event on the Olympic program for Paris in 2024, and then issued a plea for the world to keep helping their country in the fight against Russia.
“My grandfather, my mother, my sister, they are all in the war area,” Trunov said in the ICF wrap-up of the event. “A rocket bombed my town. My parents are hiding under their house. The railway station was bombed. Many people, many children died. Please help Ukraine.”
“It is so difficult for us to train and compete…”
Liudmyla Luzan similarly struggled to control her emotions after winning her second gold medal of the weekend, adding the C1 500 to the C1 1000 she won on Saturday.
“It is so difficult for us to train and compete when we know what is happening in our country,” Luzan said. “My family is in a safe place at the moment, but every day is different and there are always missiles and rockets, so you can never be sure. We believe we will win, not just on the sport field but the war as well. Every day we think about people who are being killed, including children as well who shouldn’t be in this war.”
Czech Martin Fuksa picked up his second gold in front of his home crowd, coming to the Racice World Cup as the host nation’s best medal hope, and repaid the crowd’s faith with double gold. On Sunday he won the K1 1000, beating the reigning Olympic and world champion in the process.
“For us Tokyo is history, now we are stronger,” he said. “We probably train more in K4, because there are more people and we need to practice together. But the two of us know what we want to do it and how to do it. Competing in front of the Czech crowd is very exciting, so it’s good I could take two gold medals. There were so many good athletes in the final, I knew it would be a tough race, so I just wanted to focus on myself.”
The Polish women’s K2 went one better than Tokyo to win the 500. There was also gold for Cuba’s Yarisleidis Duboys in the women’s C1 200.
In Tokyo Poland’s K2 500 combination of Karolina Naja and Anna Pulawska took silver, to go with the bronze they won in the women’s K4. This weekend they won gold in both, adding the K2 500 on Sunday to the K4 gold they won 24 hours earlier. “It’s been a great weekend, now we need a little rest before we go home,” Pulawska said.
Cuba’s Yarisleidis Duboys didn’t make the C1 200 final in Tokyo, and finished last at the ICF world championships in Denmark. But the 20-year-old showed she is one of the most improved paddlers on the circuit with an impressive win on Sunday.
In non-Olympic events, Slovenia’s Anja Osterman added K1 200 gold to the K1 500 silver she won 24 hours earlier, Portugal’s Fernando Pimenta won his second gold for the weekend, teaming up with Joao Duarte in the men’s K2 1000, and Australia’s Alyssa Bull won the women’s K1 1000.
Canoe legend Sebastian Brendel found his way to the top of the podium again, winning the C2 1000 alongside Tim Hecker, while China’s Mengya Sun also won a second gold, this time alongside Hao Liu in the mixed C2 500. The mixed K2 500 gold went to Germany’s Max Rendschmidt and Pauline Jagsch.
In the 5000 metre races, China’s Li Li won her country’s third gold medal for the weekend, leading all the way in the women’s C1 5000, while Italy’s Carlo Tacchini broke through for a long overdue win in the men’s C1 5000. In the K1, Spain’s Begona Lazkano won her country’s third gold by out sprinting her teammate Miriam Vega in the women’s race, and Denmark’s Thorbjorn Rask won his country’s first gold of the weekend with a thrilling last-gasp win over Portugal’s Pimenta in the men’s K1.
(Photos courtesy ICF/Dezso Vekassy)