Slovakia Takes 3 Golds in WW Slalom; C2, Women’s K1 Wraps


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When the dust settled at Beijing’s Shunyi Whitewater Park on Fri., Aug. 15, after the day’s C2 and women’s kayak events were postponed a day for weather, several stories rose to the surface like the competitors’ boats coming out of Stir Fry, the course’s biggest rapid.

The first: Slovakia is the world’s slalom powerhouse. With Athens gold medalist Elena Kaliska’s domineering performance in Women’s K-1 on the final day, the country took three out of four possible gold medals. Joining back-to-back gold medalist Kaliska on the victory stand were the Hochschorner twins, Peter and Pavol, in C2, besting Germany’s Jarosalv Volf and Ondrej Stepanek; and Mikal Martikan, who took the gold in C1 on Tues., Aug. 12.

A side note to the Hochschorners’ victory is that they became the first-ever three-time gold medalists in the sport of whitewater slalom, following victories in Sydney and Athens. Two other paddlers in Beijing were vying for the same feat, France’s Tony Estanguet in C1 and the Czech Republic’s Stepanka Hilgertova, but both failed in their quest, Estanguet bowing out early before even making the finals in C1, and Hilgertova suffering a disastrous second run in the finals in which she caught an edge and flipped, missing three gates for a whopping 150 seconds in penalties.

Other countries also had strong storylines. Twenty years after the U.S. first ventured to the USSR to help get the country’s slalom program up and running, Russia also showed that it’s entered the world whitewater slalom game, winning its first-ever whitewater medal in both Olympic and World Championship competition, with Mikhail Kuznetsov and Dmitry Larionov’s bronze-medal showing in C2.

To a swarm of beer-drinking fans, the Australians also showed their paddling prowess, winning their second- and third-ever Olympic whitewater medals, with Robin Bell taking the bronze in C1 and surprise Jacqueline Lawrence—despite the first-evfer slalom splat on the side of the course in Olympic competition, following behind Kaliska for the women’s silver.

Meanwhile, apart from an 8th-place showing by upstart Benn Fraker in C1, it was a different story for the U.S. Where Slovakia garnered three golds, the U.S. team garnered three 50-second penalities in each boat category, each of which knocked U.S. paddlers from the podium. The first came when K-1er Scott Parsons fiftied a gate in the preliminaries, bowing out before the finals. Then came the young C2 team of Casey Eichfeld and Rick Powell missing a gate, keeping them from advancing. Then, in women’s K-1, Heather Corrie, while making the finals,

Slalom Women’s K1 Results
On a day when some of the finest female K1 slalom paddlers were cut down to size by the merciless Shunyi white water course, Slovakia’s Elena Kaliska grabbed her second Olympic gold medal in succession with a staggering performance that proved she was peerless on this course.

Kaliska blitzed the churning channel with a clear run that was a full two seconds faster than the clear run she posted in the semi-finals, making her not only the fastest woman on the water, but also the only woman not to incur a penalty on either run. She shrieked with delight as she crossed the line, earning Slovakia its third gold medal of the Games. Silver went to the 26 year old Australian Jacqui Lawrence, who was the only other athlete to post a clear run in the final, earning her a medal on her Olympic debut. Austria’s Violetta Oblinger Peters won the bronze medal.

The treacherous course was merciless on many of the women, few more so that the iconic two times gold medallist Stepanka Hilgertova of the Czech Republic. After being slow into the testing upstream gate three, she was thrashed in the hole above gate five, capsizing and struggling to Eskimo roll her boat upright in the turbulent water.

She was underwater as she passed through gate five, and the resultant fifty second penalty changed the entire face of the final. The disconsolate Hilgertova picked up two more fifties for missing subsequent gates as she digested the disaster that had befallen her, before gallantly completing the rest of the course at her normally high standard of clinical execution.

Classy French athlete Emilie Fer paid for a lapse in concentration as she missed gate seven, after battling with the strong lateral above gate five.That fifty second penalty together with two further touches shackled what seemed to be a genuine medal prospect for France. That threw the final wide open, and suddenly Lawrence and Oblinger Peters were in the medals. Lawrence’s medal is particularly notable given the cool-headed manner in which she responded to a potentially serious problem early on in her final. Her boat spun out of a stopper sideways, and she tailwalked out of the hole and onto the side of the concrete canal. She kept her wits about her, and back paddled the kayak back into the current, successfully negotiating an unsighted gate backwards.

Seasoned Italian paddler Maria Cristina Giai Pron was another of the tough courses female victims as she picked up back-to-back fifty second penalties on the tough sequence through the upstream gate three and four, and the gate five below a nasty wave, and then added a further fifty to her score when she was catapulted sideways at “The Vortex” drop above gate fifteen.
Former British paddler Heather Corrie, racing for the USA was another casualty on this section of the course, and ended the final in eighth position after missing gate five altogether. Kaliska said afterwards that she had been oblivious to the drama that had played itself out before her final run. “This was all bout the head, the mind and mental strength. I was just concentrating on my own race.”
Oblinger Peters said that the support from her husband Helmut Oblinger, who had raced earlier in the week for Austria in the men’s K1 competition had helped her. “You have to be ready to improvise on a course like this,” she said. “Everything he told me was useful to me.”
Earlier in the day the semi-final result was revised following a protest by Kaliska at a two second penalty that was upheld, edging her into the top seeding for the final ahead of the French women Emilie Fer.
The semi-finals were dominated by the dramatic demise of world champion Jennifer Bongardt of Germany. She was mauled by the big hole called “the Dragon’s Mouth” at gate 3 and 4, resulting in her losing time and then incurring a fifty second penalty. In her desperate bid to try and salvage a place in the final she picked up another two second penalty, and then in the bottom part of the course, a further fifty second penalty as she realized that her chance at an Olympic medal had disappeared. “The disappointment is huge,” said Bongardt, before adding “but it means that someone else is going through to the final, which is kinda cool, so I am happy for them.”
She was joined on the list of casualties in the semi-finals by Ariane Herde of the Netherlands, Maria Ferekidi of Greece, Kazakhstan’s Yekaterina Lukicheva and Brazils Poliana De Paula.

1.Elena Kaliska SVK 192.64
2.Jacqueline Lawrance AUS 206.94
3.Violetta Oblinger Peters AUT 214.77
4.Yuriko Takeshita JPN 219.30
5.Agnieszka Stanuch POL 221.08
6.Ariane Herde NED 231.99
7.Emilie Fer FRA 251.96
8.Heather Corrie USA 270.88
9.Stepanka Hilgertova CZE 344.41
10.Maria Cristina Giai Pron ITA 355.78
1.Elena Kaliska SVK 97.13
2.Emilie Fer FRA 98.50
3.Stepanka Hilgertova CZE 101.78
4.Jacqueline Lawrence AUS 103.40
5.Maria Cristina Giai Pron ITA 104.52
6.Yuriko Takeshita JPN 107.86
7.Violetta Oblinger Peters AUT 110.65
8.Heather Corrie USA 114.51
9.Agnieszka Stanuch POL 116.46
10.Ariane Herde NED 117.60
11.Maria Ferekidi GRE 118.99 DNQ
12.Yekaterina Lukicheva KAZ 128.08 DNQ
13.Jingjing Li CHN 161.79
14.Poliana De Paula BRA 168.29 DNQ
15.Jennifer Bongardt GER 203.29 DNQ

Slalom Men’s C2 Final
The Slovakians twins Peter and Pavol Hochschorner made Olympic history at the Shunyi Olympic Canoeing Park when they won a third successive Olympic gold in a final laced with drama. The duo powered down the course on their final run, but picked up a two second penalty when Pavol’s shoulder brushed the pole at gate nineteen. Nonetheless they held the overall lead as the final crew, the top seeded Germans Felix Michel and Sebastian Piersig set off for their final run.
However the German’s bid for Olympic glory was in tatters two minutes later as their final run disintegrated from the outset. They were sluggish through the tricky upstream combination at gate three and four, and were then held momentarily in the stopper at gate five. This seemed to rattle the Germans, as in their desperation to make up time they spun through 360 degrees below gate nine, and approached the one-and-a-half metre high drop called The Vortex needing to finish their final run fast and clean to keep their Olympic medal dreams alive.
They managed the main drop well, but just below gate fifteen they capsized.
It took two attempts to roll their canoe upright, effectively ending what had been an extremely promising Olympic campaign. The Hochschorner twins punched the air in celebration of their unique

Olympic hat-trick, while the classy Czech crew of Jaroslav Volf and Ondrej
Stepanek could then celebrate their silver medal, an improvement on the
Athens bronze medals for the current world champions. Mikhail Kusnetskov and Dmitry Larionov won Russia’s first slalom Olympic medal when their third place was confirmed. Their combined semi-final and final score was less than a second faster than the French duo of Cedric Forgit and Martin Braud.

“Every Olympic medal is significant,” said Peter Hochschorner, downplaying the significance of their Olympic gold medal hat-trick, adding that it was their strength and conditioning as well as their mental preparation that had seen them prevail on the tough Shunyi course. He also added that they had felt that the water was slightly higher on the course for the final. “Our time was two seconds different in the final, and we felt that water was higher on the course. We like technical courses, and the final was good technical course,” he added.

Pavol Hochschorner also downplayed the significance of the unique relationship that exists between twins giving them any advantage. “It’s rather about experience and spending time together in the boat,” he said. He did concede that the touch on gate nineteen had worried them. “That touch was bad because it was so close to the end of the course.”

The twins commiserated with the luckless Germans who imploded in the final, but added that they had felt they would be unable to repeat their solid showing in the semi-final that saw them start the final with the top seeding. “We are very happy, ” said Larionov. “This medal has very big significance for the promotion of slalom canoeing in Russia.”

1.Peter Hochschorner/Pavel Hochschorner SVK 190.82
2.Jarolsav Volf/Ondrej Stepanek CZE 192.89
3.Mikhail Kusnetskov/Dmitry Larionov RUS 197.37
4.Cedric Forgit/Martin Braud FRA 189.19
5.Andrea Benetti/Erik Masoero ITA 204.12
6.Felix Michel/Sebastian Piersig GER 204.43

Staff Post
Staff Post
Paddlers writing about all things paddling.


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