This weekend the Canoeing world turns its attention to Wales for Canoe Slalom’s season opener, the Cardiff World Cup. The three day event begins on 8 June (Friday) and is the first event in the ICF Canoe Slalom World Cup series. The event will be held at the Cardiff International White Water Centre (CIWW).
Most paddlers will be set on winning medals, but for some nations such as USA, Slovakia and New Zealand, the event will also count towards their Olympic selections. With the Games just around the corner, the Cardiff World Cup is one of the few remaining chances left for athletes qualified for the Olympic Games to put final touches on their preparations.
5 Canoe Slalom World Cups in 2012 season
The first three World Cups will take place on consecutive weekends, with the opening series in Cardiff (Wales). The next two will take place in Pau (France) and Seu D’Urgell (Spain). After the Olympic Games there will be another one in Prague (Czech Republic) with the final World Cup of the season to be held in Bratislava (Slovakia).
Cardiff is the latest addition to the Canoe Slalom World Cup circuit. The venue was first opened in March 2010 by Amy Williams (GBR), Skeleton gold medallist at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Wales has not featured on the International scene since the 1981 ICF World Championships, which took place on a rocky river in Bala North Wales.
Richard Fox, winner of the Men’s K1 event in 1981 Championships
Back then, Richard Fox (current ICF 2nd Vice President) won the Men’s K1 event and thirty-one years later Jessica, Fox’s daughter Jessica will be looking to take home some medals in both the Women’s Canoe and Kayak categories. In less than tow month’s Jessica will compete at her first Olympic Games in London. Having already won the accolade of C1 Women’s bronze medallist at the World Championships in Tacen, gold medallist at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, she will be hoping to add to her mother’s Olympic medal (a bronze at Atlanta 1996), when she competes at London 2012.
With the ICF training camp taking place in London the week before the World Cup in Cardiff, many athletes are travelling straight from London to Cardiff, which has worked out well for all involved.
The 2012 European Championships in Augsburg, Germany gave European paddlers a chance to race against the best in Europe, but the opening World Cup will be the first time that Canoe Slalom has been on a world stage in 2012.
Molmenti ready for the international stage
Going into the race is red-hot favourite Men’s K1 2012 European Champion Daniele Molmenti (ITA). After his success in Augsburg, the champion returned home for only a few days of relaxation, after which he headed to Valstagna (Brenta River) with his coach Pierpaolo Ferrazzi for a special period of training.
“The Cardiff Channel is very small and has less water than others. Here it’s more about technique and power,” said Molmenti. “I will train on the course three hours before the race. The English paddlers will have a big advantage because they are often here. I want to improve my performance and achieve a good result here.”
“I will try to do my best. My target, obviously, is London 2012, but it's important to stay in the top 3 in the World Cup Ranking, like in 2011.”
Akinyemi ups his training one gear ahead of Cardiff World Cup
Already training in Cardiff is the African K1 Champion Johnathan Akinyemi (NGR). After qualifying for the Olympic Games at the 2012 African Canoe Slalom Championships in Bethlehem, South Africa, Akinyemi says his training has gone up a gear.
“I think there have been some real improvements in my paddling since the African Olympic Qualifiers in February,” said Akinyemi. “The main focus for this and the following World Cups is the Olympics, and as part of the Olympic preparations I have based myself in Cardiff for the past few months because I really want to have a strong race at the Cardiff World Cup.”
“I really like Cardiff as a city and the course is a great facility to train on. I'm hoping that the race here will give me a confidence boost in the build up to the Games. It will be great to see how I am doing compared to all of the other guys.”
Kuhnle plays it safe
Current and twice Women’s K1 world champion Corinna Kuhnle (AUT) arrived in Cardiff yesterday after a week training on the Lee Valley Olympic course. Having taken 4th place at the European Championships she admits that her main goal was winning that single Women’s K1 spot on the Austrian Olympic Team.
“The Europeans were much more to me than just European Championships. In the end qualifying for the Olympics was the main goal in my final run. I had to go safe lines and not take any risk of touching a gate.
“That's why I went wider lines around the poles than I usually would. In the end I am very pleased with a 4th place there. I think everyone would agree that racing Olympic Selections is different than just any European Championship final.”
“At the moment my main goal is to train for the Olympics. So for the upcoming World Cups I don't expect many good results on the board but I do hope to perform well.”
Hounslow managing expectations in Cardiff
Great Britain’s Richard Hounslow, one half of the C2 duo of Hounslow & Florence (David) said he was reasonably happy with his preparations this year.
“I was a little disappointed with my K1 result at the European Championships, but I know I'm paddling well in London, and that's what will count come the Olympics Games.”
“I'm not really going into Cardiff and the other World Cups with any real expectations. I'm using them as a way of fine tuning my race day preparations. Obviously it would be great to get some good results, but I just have to focus on my preparations and hope the result comes from that."
Hochschorner brothers begin World Cup campaign with gold in mind
Also competing will be the Slovakian twins Pavol and Peter Hochschorner. The C2 duo have won 5 world championship gold medals (4 consecutively) and will be aiming to make history this summer by winning their fourth straight gold medal at the Olympic Games. They come off the back of winning a silver medal at the European Championships and will be hoping to go one better in Cardiff.
Last opportunity for Team GB to compete in front of home crowd before Games
John Anderson, Performance Director of GB Canoeing, and the man responsible for orchestrating the ascension and success of Great Britain’s Canoeing athletes at their home Games said, “We are delighted to welcome the canoe slalom family from around the world to Cardiff for the inaugural World Cup of 2012. It should be an exciting weekend of racing and the GB Olympic team are delighted to have the opportunity to race in front of a home crowd for the last time before London.”
One thing that is guaranteed is that all the athletes competing at this summer’s World Cups races will have something to prove. Some will want to show good form going into the Olympics; others will want to show that they aren’t just there to make up the numbers.
The Opening Ceremony will be held today and competition begins on 8 June (Friday) at 09h00 (GMT) with heats: C1 Men, C1 Women & K1 Men - 1st Run. The programme can be accessed here. For more information on Cardiff World Cup visit: www.canoecardiff2012.com/en.