A berth in the Olympics served as a powerful motivator that intensified the competition as the early rounds of the 2011 ICF World Sprint Championships continued here today. The competition was as sizzling as the day was hot especially in Olympic events including Men’s K1 and C1 1000, Men’s K2 1000 and Women’s K4 500.
In K1 1000 thousandths of seconds separated first from third place overall. The fastest times were etched in the third heat with Aleh Yurenia (BLR) 3:25.275; Fernando Pimenta (POR) 3:26.829 and Anders Gustafsson (SWE) 3:26.883.
Gustafsson, who advanced to the final by a mere 0.005 seconds, predicted the key to success in tomorrow’s finals would be mental. “You have to stick to your plan. I always try for even splits,” Gustafsson said. “I don’t try to go too hard in the first 50 or 100 meters but it’s tempting when you have a young guy like Fernando Pimenta (POR) right next to you. He starts super fast and you just have to trust he’s not super human.”
Though not superhuman, the fastest time of the division and the only one sub 3:26 was notched by Yurenia with a 3:25.275.
Hungary’s Bence Dombvari finished fourth in his semi with no chance to advance. A short time later, the partisan hometown crowd had plenty to cheer about in the C1 1000 class where Szeged native son Atila Vajda posted a blistering 3:51.664, which was more than a boat length and three seconds faster than second place Mathieu Goubel (FRA) and nearly a full two seconds faster than the next fastest time in the division, 3:53.277 posted by defending champ Vadim Menkov (UZB).
Wearing his girlfriend’s ring around his neck for luck, Vajda explained its significance. Their son was born this past March, less than a month after Vajda’s beloved father David passed away. Vajda named his son after his father and further explained his commanding performance today was a sort of belated birthday present to his father.
Olympic dreams also created a hot contest in Men’s K2 1000 where Russia and Germany are fierce rivals. The Russian team of Vitaly Yurchenko and Vasily Pogreban posted the fastest time of the semi with a 3:11.873. Germany topped their semi with a more relaxed time, just enough to stay atop their heat. Meanwhile Slovakia and Spain also topped their heats raising hopes for a medal for those two countries. The Hungarian team of Rudolph Dombi and Roland Kokeny also advanced to tomorrow’s final keeping Hungarian medal and Olympic quota hopes alive.
The other Olympic event contested today was Women’s K4 500m. Topping their semifinal heats were Belarus, 1.31:662 and Portugal, 1:32.731. The Belarusians said the semi was actually easier than their first-round heat where they had to stave off a charge by Hungary which failed to make the final. The Belarusians said their game plan for the final was to try their best but they’re quite happy with where they are so far. Also especially happy to be advancing to the finals were the Australians. Though configured less than two months ago, the K4 made it a mission to earn an Olympic quote for their country.
“Mission accomplished,” said Martin Marinov, Australian Head Coach,
We knew it was going to be tough but it’s the best time this crew has had, so all is going according to plan.
Finals for all the Paracanoe divisions and their raucous awards ceremony were also held today. Topping the headlines were George Thomas (NZL) and Patrick Mahoney (GBR) in V1 LTA. Young challengers in yesterday’s heats stoked the competitive fires of the two seasoned athletes who once again claimed a first and second at the World Championships although this time, for the first time, it was Mahoney who took home the Gold. “I’ll never hear the end of it,” Thomas laughed. When asked what made the difference for him today, Mahoney thought for a second then said,
I just wanted it more than anyone. The water was kinder today, there was less of a breeze and I dug deeper and found something within that had been there during training that I just hadn’t brought to the surface until now.
Sprint World Championship action starts up again tomorrow at 8 a.m. when the Women’s K1 500 takes center stage.