A quiet sense of expectation dawned on the athletes as they rose from their hollows in anticipation for the start of the 2012 Youth & Masters World Championships.
That nervousness soon switched to excitement as the sun pierced the skies, fans lined the riverbanks, while the Hungarian men yelled out the team war cry and the scene was set for an action packed day of racing down the recently re-developed Ceske Budejovice Whitewater course.
Inspired by a vocal local crowd, the Czech teams didn’t disappoint there avid onlookers producing a stellar performance with a clean sweep of victories in the sprint discipline, putting them in the box seat for the Head to Head which followed in the afternoon.
The girls Youth class were the first to hit the water with the Czech raft of Tereza Krausova, Denisa Foltysova, Blanka Ligurska and Lenka Sovakova proving too good, crossing the finish in 1:54.21, 6.14 seconds ahead of the team from Brazil, with Russia rounding out the medals.
The Youth men’s event proved a tighter affair with the Brazilians powering through the top section with their time of 1:43.43 appearing good enough for victory, before the local Czech team lead by their skipper Antonin Hales produced a faultless display on the lower section of the course to finish 1.42s clear, pinching a memorable victory in front of their friends and family.
“We are very happy because we now know where everyone is at, and who our main rivals are,” said Hales.
After a short break the ‘Head 2 Head’ competition commenced in the early afternoon with the Czech paddlers picking up where they left off, capping off the perfect performance with eight victories from eight events for the day, setting the platform for the slalom and downriver events to come across the next three days.
Hales once again led his team superbly from the front right of the boat, as fellow members Ondrej Rolenc, Martin Novak and Radek Pavlik all paddled in sync, first knocking off the Japanese crew in the quarter finals, then the German’s in the semi final, before proving their class in the final defeating close rivals Brazil.
The final was a heated performance with the Brazilians appealing the decision over an incident in the early stages of the race, but that decision was overturned and the Czechs crowned victors. “It is a Great feeling and we are very happy about this,” said Hales. But with a confident and steely resolve his focus lies solely on overall honours.
These two disciplines do not score as well as slalom and downriver so we have to compete well tomorrow and the day after, because we want to be first overall.
Russia defeated Germany in the race off for third.
The Czech girls Youth team made it two from two in the exact same order as the men’s, with Brazil and Russia finishing in second and third respectively. 19 year old Lenka Sovakova proudly donned her nations flag post race after watching her teammates secure the victory, having earlier in the day been a part of the sprint win.
“It was very fast being, we didn’t have any problem in the race, so I was very happy,” she said.
The Masters classes followed with the Czech boats continuing their dominance, with the elder paddlers showing that they can still match it with the younger generation posting consecutive wins with the Russians finishing second in both the mens and womens finals.
The men blitzed the course, setting up a sizeable lead and were never headed coasting to victory in the final, capping off a great day of action at the Ceske Budejovice Whitewater stadium.
Paddling in the back right of the boat, Jiri Vrba was pleased with the result.
“We are very glad because we are good in slalom, and slalom will be tomorrow and we are first today, so we are very happy.”
Latvia took home the bronze medal after finishing ahead of the Albanians in the race off for third position.
The Slalom discipline will commence tomorrow and with a 30% weighting, the conclusion of tomorrow should provide a clear indication of who is in contention in Tuesday’s finale, the mighty downriver event on the powerful and challenging Vltava River.
Event website: www.ymwrc2012.com