A sweep by Australia in the successful debut of women’s C-1, all new faces on the podium in men’s K1, and familiar paddlers atop the other disciplines sums up the slalom world championships, which just concluded in La Seu d’Urgell, Spain. In all, 55 nations sent 98 men’s kayaks and 22 C-1 Women to the Pyrenees to paddle against the sport’s best. A special PL congratulations goes out to Brett Heyl, who was top U.S. finisher in 7th. Scott Mann and Jim Wade had respectable showings with a 26th and 30th finish overall, as did Men’s C-1er Benn Fraker, who fell to 27th after a questionable missed gate call on his second run. Other U.S. competitors in the men’s C-1 included Casey Eichfeld and Zach Lokken who finished 39th and 46th, respectfully….
“It was a great event,” says Performance Video’s Kent Ford, on hand at the event as an announcer. “There was a lot of great racing.”
This year’s World Championships resulted in a slate of new faces emerging amid some familiar champions. Among the familiar old guard, the newest chapter of the ongoing drama between C1 slalom stars Tony Estanguet (FRA) and Slovakian Michal Martikan (SLV) closed with a happy ending for Tony Estanguet. The Frenchman bested long-time rival and most decorated man in the history of the sport, Michal Martikan, by nearly three seconds, 2.55 to be exact, to take home the gold.
Estanguet said he wasn’t sure he could top his first place semi-final run time of 99.59 but he in fact smoked it by three seconds, crossing the finish line in 96.21. Martikan who found himself in the unusual position of eighth after semis, had to wait all the way until Estanguet’s final run to see his leaderboard-topping 98.76 take silver.
“Today, Tony was unbeatable,” Martikan said, adding the silver would have sat better with him if he felt like he’d paddled his best. But in the semifinal he uncharacteristically touched the last two gates, and he felt he felt he didn’t get into the groove in the final until the end of the run.
The future may be quite different for both champions. Estanguet, said he’ll take some time off now to decide whether or not he will set his sights on London in 2012, when he’ll be 34 years old. For his part, 30-year-old Martikan said he still has visions of more gold medals. “I love performing at this level,” Martikan said.
Nowhere were there more fresh faces on the podium than in Women’s K1 where veteran Slovaks and Czechs had their stranglehold on the podium broken by a German, a Spaniard and a Brit. Though she led at the end of qualifications and semis, one 2-point gate touch in the final heat cost Maialen Chourraut (ESP) the gold medal.
Though Chourraut’s time on the water was .79 faster than Jasmin Schornberg, Schornberg’s penalty-free run earned the 23-year-old German her first gold medal since being crowned Junior World Champion in 2004. Nevertheless, Chourrat’s silver
delivered her country its highest podium finish of this championship. Spanish men also tallied three bronze medals – C1 and K1 Team and K1 individual – Spain’s first collection of World Championship medals.
Among other familiar faces atop the podium, Slovakia’s Hochschorner brothers added a third World title to complement their three Olympic golds, but not without a bit of drama. The legendary brothers, Peter and Pavol, barely squeaked into the final round with a startling ninth place finish in semis, which Peter said he thought was the result of a judging error.
On the run that counted most, the Hochschorners showed true championship form crossing the finish line in 105.70. Their winning time, marred slightly by a 2-point penalty, was still more than two seconds ahead of the semifinal winning time of 107.97 posted by countrymen cousins Ladislav and Peter Skantar. The Skantars took silver by the slimmest, 0.14 seconds, of margins. The young, ecstatic team of Luka Bozic and Saso Taljat (SLO), who came to these championships ranked 28th, won bronze.
In Men’s K1 class, each of the top three finalists were newcomers to the World Championship podium. For top-seeded Peter Kauzer (SLO), the gold was almost a relief. Heavily favored to win Olympic gold last year, Kauzer said his failure to advance to finals in Beijing gave him something to think about and a new sense of determination. Kauzer’s flawless, blazing final run of 92.84 was 2.05 ahead of silver medallist Boris Neveu (FRA) and 3.05 in front of bronze medallist Juanmarti, both of whom also enjoyed clean runs.
Possibly the happiest of bronze medallists at this event was 30-year-old canoe slalom journeyman Carles Juanmarti. Juanmarti said his bronze medal is proof that if you train hard enough on technique and strength anyone can “explode your possibilities.”
This year, some 22 women explored their own possibilities in the demonstration event of women’s C1 for the first time at the 2009 World Championships. While the U.S. was represented proudly by Carolyn Peterson, Micki Reeves and Hailey Thompson, after the last ten women crossed the finish line, the scoreboard showed a sweep for Australia: Leanne Guinea, 137.80, gold; Rosalyn Lawrence, 143.10, silver and 15-year-old Jessica Fox, 145.41, bronze. “I’d like to repeat this gold when the ICF grants C1 women full medal status, hopefully next year.”
ICF Second Vice President Richard Fox was clearly pleased with this year’s championship. “I think we saw a high standard of performance on the water and the fans created an absolutely electric atmosphere during the finals,” Fox said. “Even more so, there were some really great stories from this event that will lay the foundation for the long-term health and future of the sport as well as create a lot of anticipation for the Worlds in Slovenia next year.”
Results, photos and videos, click here
Split screen video differential(in K-1 qualifier heats) between Ciaran Heurteau (6 seconds back in 39th place- Ireland) and Winner Peter Kauser (Slovenia) click here
More videos here: