The 10th edition of the ICF Canoe Polo World Championships will take place from 5 – 9 September in Poznan, Poland. The sixty-three competing teams represent 25 countries and qualified for the competition based on the position that they finished at previous World Championships and in between, Continental Championships.
Since the inaugural Championships held in 1994 in Sheffield, England, rule changes and adaptations have increased the pace of the sport making it faster, more explosive and much more attractive to spectators and the media who have taken a keen interest in the sport’s development.
The introduction of the 60 second shot-clock for high level competition has been a very positive step for the discipline. This revision was made after the last World Championship in Italy and has been well received by players and coaches alike. This rule change has also resulted in the use of more substitutes to keep the speed of play high.
“It's great how competitive canoe polo is becoming,” said Greg Smale, ICF Canoe Polo Committee Chair and Chief Official. “With the shot clock being used in the worlds for the first time the competition for spectators will be really exciting”.
France tipped to retain world title
Reigning Men’s World Champions France are favourites to retain the title they won in 2010, but both Germany and Netherlands have taken significant strides to improve their level of play and will pose the biggest challenge to France’s campaign for the world championship title.
Unlike previous years when only a few teams dominated the sport, a group of six or seven countries have emerged as possible medal contenders having proved their ability in national, regional and continental championships. Teams such as the Namibia Under 21 Men will be competing for the first time at a World Championship and Finland Men return to the finals after a long absence.
The host team Poland have been preparing very hard for this competition. The Men’s team came very close in 2010 to breaking into the top 12 and have since been able to put together a team that will be competitive in every category.
Polish player Cezary Salamonik only picked up the sport at the relatively late age of 18 and was selected to play in the National Team 2 years ago.
This is the biggest tournament of my paddling life so far and I'm really excited,” said Salamonik who wears the number 10 shirt. “Poland Men have never qualified in the top 3 of the group stage and progressed into the top 12 in the world.
“The team was really close in 2010 and we hope to go through this time. If the Worlds go well I think 8th is a realistic finishing position but of course higher would be great".
“There are 10 players in the team and only 8 are picked for each game. It is my birthday today. I hope the coach selects me for the first game tomorrow and my hope is I'm in the starting 5 for Poland throughout the competition!”
Trio of Great Britain, Germany and France to compete for Women’s title
In the Women’s category, Great Britain, Germany and France remain the top 3 teams to beat and it will be difficult for other teams to break through this established trio, but these are the World Championships and there is always a surprise in store.
The Under 21 Men category often proves to be the hardest category for referees to officiate and it is also the most difficult to predict the outcome as this is often the stage where players transition into senior teams. The first round of competition will be a good indicator of form.
The Under 21 Women category will be one of the toughest as all seven teams in this developing category will play each other, with the top 4 teams qualifying for the semifinals. The skilful New Zealand Junior Paddle Ferns will be looking to deliver a few surprises as one of the most improved teams in the competition.
The Poznan World Championships will also serve as the qualification competition for the 2013 IWGA World Games which will be held in Colombia. The International World Games Association (IWGA) is made up of International Sports Federations and it organises multidisciplinary sport events every four years.
The top 5 Men and Women's teams will be invited to compete at next year’s World Games, and the highest placed women's team from the Americas will also qualify – paving the way for a good battle between Canada and USA.
When the Canoe Polo World Championships kick off tomorrow in Poznan, it will be the 4th ICF event that the city has hosted this year, having already hosted the Canoe Sprint & Paracanoeing World Championships and Canoe Sprint World Cup I earlier in the year.
Event website: www.kayakpl.com