Three weeks after they were tipped to medal at the Olympic Games, Etienne Daille (FRA) and Benjamin Savsek (SLO) won gold at the Prague World Cup, while David Florence (GBR) a medallist in London, and Denis Gargaud-Chanut (FRA) the 2011 World Champion, both bowed out of the competition in the semifinal stage.
The Czech team’s performance in the preliminary rounds played up the hopes of the home crowd and they came out in their numbers today, filling up the Prague Canoeing Center by the time the finals got underway at midday.
It could have been the pressure of competing in front of a home crowd or just fate, but the Czech C1 women who had breezed through the heats and semifinal, all finished without medals after picking up penalties for missing and touching gates during their runs.
Caroline Loir (FRA) took the gold medal in the Women’s C1 final winning her 3rd World Cup of the season. The Cardiff World Cup is the only one that she has not medalled and this is because she didn’t compete in it. Asked what it is that keeps propelling her from one victory to the other she replied:
My motivation is really high; I think I just want to do as well as I can and I never try to do more.
More surprises were in store as Denis Gargaud-Chanut (FRA), David Florence (GBR), a silver medallist in London (Men’s C2) and finalist Takuya Haneda (JPN) all dropped out of medal contention in the semifinal; only 3.95 sec separated the top 10 paddlers.
Great Britain’s Adam Burgess (GBR) had his best finish in this season’s World Cup Series as did Karol Rozmus (SVK) and Vitezslav Gebas (CZE) the eventual bronze medallist.
There would be an even bigger surprise for the home crowd as Stanislav Jezek (CZE) broke his paddle while attacking the wave around gate 20.
But all was not lost for the local crowd as Gebas (CZE), who had posted the fastest time in the semifinal came through the gates with bronze winning precision.
Alexander Slafkovsky (SVK) made the best of what has been a bitter sweet year, winning silver and extending his lead at the top of the World Cup Series. Slafkovsky who was poised to fight for Slovakia’s Men’s K1 spot at the Games was ruled out of contention because of an illness earlier in the year.
“I couldn’t participate at the Olympic qualification back home,” said Slafkovsky. “But even if I couldn’t go to the Olympics I said I wanted to be the best Slovak this season in the World Cup Series and I am doing this.”
Benjamin Savsek (SLO) proved that he still has the credentials to be world No. 1. Currently ranked 11th in the world, Savsek represented Slovenia at the Olympic Games but after posting top three time in the semifinal in London the pressure to medal proved too much for him and he finished in 8th place in the final.
“I was just focusing on my run,” said Savsek after winning the gold medal. “I knew I needed to do a clean run to do well and I had a bit of luck as well. It’s a good result for next year’s Championship and I hope to do it again.”
Of the 8 London 2012 paddlers that qualified for the semifinal, three would make it into the final and two got on the podium. Hannes Aigner (GER) bronze medallist at the London 2012 Olympic Games finished in 36th place, thus not qualifying for the fina,l along with Mike Kurt (SUI), Helmut Oblinger (AUT) and Mike Dawson (NZL).
Vavrinec Hradilek (CZE) who yesterday spoke of the pressures he faces racing in front of a home crowd, missed a gate in the final and finished in 10th place. That did not dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm for the disappointed paddler as they faithfully cheered him through the remaining gates and stood patiently waiting for his autograph at the finish line.
Etienne Daille (FRA) extended his lead at the top of the World Cup table by winning the gold medal. The silver medal went to Fabian Doerfler (GER) who also picked up some valuable points here in Prague to maintain his 2nd position on the ICF Ranking. It may not be the medal that Mateusz Polaczyk (POL) dreamed of winning at the beginning of this season, but it was welcomed after he narrowly missed out on winning one in London 3 weeks ago.
For more information on the Prague World Cup visit: www.slalomtroja.cz