Jana Dukatova (SVK) won the Women’s K1 gold medal on the final day of the Prague World Cup. In a final that included only three paddlers ranked in the world’s top 10, Dukatova delivered her run with the graceful precision that has become her trademark.
“This season was very hard for me because I have been struggling this whole season,” said the top ranked Dukatova. “I am very happy I managed to win this race and hopefully make a good result in Bratislava as well.
I wasn’t preparing for this race because after the Olympic Games I had a one week rest and then I was training just once a day.
“I am quite tired this season and this course was very technically very difficult and it’s always a big advantage for me.”
Carole Bouzidi (FRA) took the silver medal which equaled her second place finish in Pau. The bronze medal went to Ricarda Funk (GER) who put in a sensational run to beat her more established compatriots.
“I am really surprised and I am really happy,” said Funk who now moves into 11th place in the ICF Ranking. “I didn’t expect this. I am 23 and this is my 4th World Cup and I am really surprised.”
The first signs of fatigue may be creeping in as many of the top paddlers languished in the semifinal or made uncharacteristic errors in the final.
Stepanka Hilgertova (CZE) has not suffered too many 50 sec penalties in her career but the 45 year old did just that in the final leaving behind any possibility for her to be presented a medal in front of an adoring crowd.
“The positive is to be in the final because people expected to watch me and so I tried to do my best but there was that mistake at the beginning of the course. I hope they were not disappointed and enjoyed watching the other girls and other runs.
“It’s a bit difficult to concentrate because the commentators are very loud and I cannot concentrate on what I am doing and I can hear what they are saying about my runs, but the motivation is still very (very) big.
Double World Champion Corinna Kuhnle (AUT) and double Olympic Champion Elena Kaliska (SVK) both failed to qualify for the final after the former missed a gate and the latter had 6 penalty seconds added to her otherwise fast run.
There were also some first time finalists such as Funk, the bronze medallist and Rosalyn Lawrence (AUS) who made her first final this season.
France wins gold and silver medal in Men’s C2 final
It was a one, two for the French team as they continued their excellent World Cup form winning both the gold and silver medals in the C2 final.
“Even though we didn’t make it in the French selections for the Olympic Games we are really satisfied with our form at the World Cups,” said Nicolas Peschier (FRA), one half of the top ranked Men’s C2 duo. “We are very motivated because we love to paddle first and foremost and we enjoy paddling together.”
“We just found our smile now again,” said Peche. “It’s not a full compensation but we just came to get back the smile. We didn’t prepare.
The bronze medal went to Luka Bozik/Saso Taljat (SLO) who also fell short of winning a medal at the Games after crashing out in the semifinal.
“We don’t have a bronze medal yet at a World Cup so this is a positive,” said Bozik. “At the end the run was not bad, still the best time, despite one mistake.”
“We had really good World Cups before the Olympic Games,” said Taljat as he reflected on their Olympic campaign for a medal.
Asked whether the pressure to medal was too much for them Bozik responded:
Maybe, we don’t know yet, we haven’t analysed it (the run); it takes some time to heal the wounds.
Skantar cousins fail to medal after costly mistake
The Skantar cousins (SVK), Ladislav and Peter were poised to medal to win another World Cup medal but fell short in the later stages after missing a gate.
“We made a big mistake coming out of a gate,” said Ladislav. “We had a 50 sec penalty and we are not satisfied with this run.
“I don’t know what we will do now, but we have one more World Cup on the Cuonova (Bratislava) and then we will see.”
The Prague World Cup was a big success for the organisiers and spectators even if the Czech team did not deliver the medals expected from their top paddlers. They dominated the preliminary rounds, but weren’t able to convert the early promise into medals.
France once again emerged the dominant nation winning three of the five events. The World Cup will be remembered for the excitement brought about by the high risk strategy adopted by many of the top paddlers leading to some unpredictable results.
The next and final Canoe Slalom World Cup will be held in Bratislava from 31 August – 2 September.