The first finals of the 2012 ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup took place Saturday on the Water Sports Centre Cunovo (Bratislava, Slovakia) under a chilly autumnal weather. C1 men, K1 Men and C1 Women were on the water and as one could expect after the heats on Friday, Slovakia dominated the competition, grabbing two gold medals out of three available today. SLAFKOVSKI (SVK, C1 Men), DAILLE (FRA, K1 Men) and LAWRENCE (AUS, C1 Women) won the 2012 ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup series.
In the absence of the C1 local superstar Michal MARTIKAN (although he designed the course this week-end), Alexander SLAFKOVSKY (SVK) reminded to all the observers that Slovakia could rely on a rich pool of elite paddlers able to shine at every moment. Not only did he win this last stage of the World Cup, he also topped the season overall ranking. His final was a demonstration of calm and focus, as he had to manage the pressure of going in the last position after Anze BERCIC (SLO) set a time of reference that held through the whole final. He could not hide his joy on the finish line: “Finally!
This is the best I could have accomplished here, a dream scenario. Winning the final of the World Cup, at home, and the overall World Cup was the goal of my whole season.
The difficulty of the course today was graduating and the last few gates were seriously hard to negotiate, especially the last drop. This is a spot where everyone had problems so I knew it would make a difference. It was great to hear the crowed pushing me, I knew I was doing a good job because I had a nice start and I just had to stay focused on my plan.”
The Final of the K1 men was a top-level battle. Even on an unusually long course as this one, the first four athletes managed to finish in the same second! In the end, and despite a 2 second penalty, Jure MEGLIC (SLO) won the race and savored his victory: “Winning feels incredible. I did not expect such a good result as I suffered a back surgery this year. I did a very good job. When I touched the gate at the end I was really annoyed so when I saw I won anyway I could not believe it. The cheering of the crowd was awesome. Now my season is over and it time to rest.” But although Jure MEGLIC (SLO) won today’s race, one can only bow down to the French Etienne DAILLE, who managed the very impressive performance of winning his fifth medal in five World Cups, comforting his lead in the final world cup series rankings, at only 22 year old! However this did not seem to make it completely satisfied: “Today was probably not the best race of my season. The last drop is very hard. Last week was better in Prague. It is hard to be in the top three at every world cup so overall I am happy I won the 2012 World Cup. When I look back on my season, I have mixed feeling.
Obviously, being the favorite at the Olympic Games and finishing 7th was a real disappointment. But I had a complicated start of the season. When I qualified for the national team, everything for me, I started to believe in myself. So I must say I am quite happy with my progression this year and to have won the World Cup and the World Ranking. Now I am looking forward to next year as I was born in Prague and the World Championships will take place there in 2013.”
The women of the C1 category could enjoy a better weather than yesterday and the global performance of the paddlers was consequently better too. The ladies offered a high level final on this particularly difficult course, eventually won by the local specialist Katarina MACOVA (SVK): “My run could have been better but still, I am happy about it. I would have liked to avoid the touch at the end but the course is really hard. My season was not so good as I had some health problems early and could not take part to the first three world cups. And I was not in the Final in Prague last week, which was a huge disappointment for me. So a win here at home feels really good.”
The overall World Cup series was dominated by the Australian Rosalyn LAWRENCE, who grabbed silver today before the French Oriane REBOURS, who made an nice appearance amongst the top C1 Women paddles. This category is definitely growing and evolving in the good direction. The “winner of the day” Katarina MAKOVA (SVK) witnesses the progression of the C1 Women: “More and more ladies are trying C1, and of course there would be even more if C1 Women was an Olympic event. But I am confident that it will be the case one day. We are improving fast and I hope we can take the start in Rio in 2016.”
Races will continue tomorrow with the semi-finals and finals of C2 Men and K1 Women from 9.30am.
Live coverage of the ICF 2012 Canoe Slalom World Cup Final is available here.