Giving the newly re-designed Cunovo Water Sports Center in Bratislava, Slovakia, its first world-class test, some of the world’s best slalom and extreme kayakers descended upon the Slovakian slalom hotbed to battle it out in late September at the 2021 ICF Extreme Slalom World Championships.
Showing that the USA has up-and-comers more than ready to do well on the world stage, the U.S.’s Evy Leibfarth, at just 17 years old and fresh from her first Olympic appearance in Japan, took the bronze for the women, behind Germany’s Elena Apel and Australia phenom Jessica Fox, fresh from winning the Olympic gold in the inaugural Women’s C1 event in Japan and a bronze in Women’s Slalom. Leibfarth got her bronze after failing to qualify in the top 10 spots in Japan, but winning the Junior World title earlier in the year.
For the men, it was Great Britain’s Joseph Clarke taking the top spot int eh head-to-head format, followed by Finn Butcher of New Zealand and France’s Mario Leitner in third. Other men from the USA competing included Eric Jackson, Kaelin Friedenson and Tren Long, all of whom didn’t make the podium.
“It was a tough run but I managed to do well,” said Clarke on the victory stand after the win. “It was a close race and a fun course.”
Originally built in 1996 on an island in the Danube, the Cunovo Water Sports hosted its first World Cup kayak event in 1997 and its most recent in 2013. To continue progressing with the sport, the Slovakian Federation tapped S20 Design and Engineering to renovate the dual-channel venue, with its first real test in front of the world coming at September’s Extreme Slalom World Championships.
The new channel configuration incorporated S20’s RapidBlocs system, creating a course for the extreme Slalom Championships that truly tested the world’s best is the discipline as the sport vies for Olympic inclusion.
“We love working on projects like this, but this one was a little more personal for me,” says S2O Design’s founder Scott Shipley, a three-time Slalom Olympian who medaled for the U.S. at the Cunovo World Cup in 1999. “We were fortunate to work closely with the Federation and with coaches who have been using the course for 20 years, which went a long way toward building a world-class whitewater competition venue that can evolve with the sport. I think it worked out great for the extreme Slalom event.”
Federation officials were also pleased with the results of the course at its inaugural event.
“The reconstruction of the Čunovo water slalom complex is an important milestone in the development of water sports in the Slovak Republic,” said the Slovak Canoeing Federation’s Matus Stulajter. “In collaboration with the S20 Design team, we’ve managed to create a unique channel with elements that are nowhere else in the world.”
1 Joseph Clarke (GBR)
2 Finn Butcher (NZ)
3 Mario Leitner (FR)
1 Jessica Fox (AUS)
2 Elena Apel (GER)
3 Evy Leibfarth (USA)