Cuba Calling: Caribbean Country Garners 5 Golds at ICF World Cup Sprint Event

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Forget the cigars…Cuba is making itself known for sprint paddling.

Boding well for competing in the Tokyo Olympics, the country emerged as serious medal contender in canoe events at this year’s Olympic Games by winning five golds at the second ICF canoe sprint world cup in Barnaul, Russia.

On Sunday they picked up gold in the Olympic events of the men’s C2 1000 and the women’s C2 500. Tokyo-bound athletes from Portugal, Croatia and Moldova won gold in 500 meter events, while there were also two wins for Germany and a victory for Sweden. The Cubans also picked up a gold in the men’s C1 5000, giving the island country five gold medals for the weekend.

But the biggest sensations were teenagers Yarisleidis Cirilo Duboys and Katherin Nuevo Segura who won C2 500 gold in Barnaul on Sunday, paving the way for their Olympic debut.

“We trained very hard this season, so we are very happy to win here, but the race is not finished because now we are thinking about Tokyo,” Duboys said. “We are very proud to have been selected to compete for Tokyo at our young age, but we are very happy to paddle together because we are also best friends.”

Cuba’s Serguey Torres Madrigal and Fernando Dayan Jorge Enriquez

Tokyo will be the fourth Olympic Games for Serguey Torres Madrigal, and his second with Fernando Dayan Jorge Enriquez in the men’s C2 1000. After a difficult year with very little competition, 34-year-old Torres said the win in Barnaul is a good sign ahead of Tokyo.

“We now have a very good feeling, we have been training a lot together for a very long time, so to come here and still be at the top is amazing” Torres said. “Tokyo is very close. It’s been hard for the past year, but our boat is getting better every year. This time I think we will do good.”

Fernando Dayan Jorge Enriquez also won the men’s C1 5000, surviving an epic finish against Mexico’s Rigoberto Camilo.

Joana Vasconcelos en route to winning gold in the K1-W 500.

Elsewhere at the event, Portugal’s Joana Vasconcelos and Croatia’s Vanesa Tot both confirmed their Tokyo quotas, celebrating world cup wins in the K1 and C1 500 metre races respectively.

Tot’s win on Sunday was another first for her country, after teammate Anamaria Govorcinovic earlier in the day won bronze in the K1 500.

“This is a big thing for Croatia, because never in the history of Croatia has any woman in canoe or kayak taken a medal, so the two of us have written history,” Tot said. “I’ve been thinking about Tokyo a lot. I was excited after the race, but I didn’t know how to feel. Today I was thinking how big my results have been, how much work I have put into this.”

Germany’s Tamas Gecso and Felix Frank underlined their country’s depth in men’s paddling with a win in the K2 1000. In the mixed races, Sweden’s Melina Andersson and Petter Menning took gold in the K2 200, while Germany’s Peter Kretschmer and Ophelia Preller won the C2 200 gold.

Chile’s Maria Mailliard, who contracted coronavirus just six weeks ago, won the women’s C1 5000 gold, while Germany’s Paulina Paszek outsprinted Ireland’s Jennifer Egan to take gold in the women’s K1 5000.

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