Trnovo ob Soči, Slovenia, hosted first two world cup races of the season. The strongest wildwater canoeing nations were among the best during two days of exciting racing. France topped the medal standings with eight medals, followed by Czech Republic and Germany with seven medals.
The extremely low level of the Soča River forced competitors to show all their knowledge while navigating between the rocks which are usually covered with rapids. Some of the favourites were among casualties of the rocky course which also caused broken paddles and scratched or damaged boats.
The main favourite in men’s kayak sprint race, local Nejc Žnidarčič (SLO), set the fastest qualification run with almost three seconds lead, but later in the final hit the rock and showed spectacular flight through the air. The mistake caused him medal and pushed him to 10th place. He crossed the finish line with a smile: “What else to do after a run like this? If the run was not fast it was at least attractive. I just saw a video of the run and I think I could be a good competition to ski jumpers. It was a really nice jump,” said reigning European champion.
It was Paul Jean (FRA) who took gold ahead of Gerhard Schmid (AUT) and Kamil Mružek (CZE) in exciting sprint final. The latter two competitors were also amongst medallists in classic race. Mružek took silver and Schmid bronze, but it was Žnidarčič who secured himself a gold medal.
In men’s canoe event German Normen Weber, a multiple medallist from the biggest canoeing events, won two medals which made him the most successful canoeist of the weekend. He finished first in classic race and second in sprint final. In sprint he had to congratulate Vladimir Slanina (CZE), while another Czech paddler Lukaš Novosad picked up bronze. In classic race Blaž Cof (SLO) and Vaclav Kristek (CZE) were behind Weber who produced a superb run with more than 18 seconds lead.
In women’s sprint race on the emerald river Alice Schmitt secured herself a tight win over her team colleague Charlene Le Corvaisier (both FRA). Only 0.12 seconds divided the two ladies. Sabine Fuesser (GER) took bronze. Experienced German paddler also paddled well in classic race. She finished behind another German Manuela Stoberl. France won their sixth medal of the series with Lise Vinet being third.
Anežka Paloudova (CZE) delivered two gold medals in women’s canoe race. The young paddler was the best both in sprint and classic and received her medals with a big smile on her face. Sabrina Barm (GER) was just behind her in both events, while bronze went to France. In sprint it was Marion Loheac who celebrated on the winner’s podium, while in classic it was her team colleague Cindy Coat.
The race seemed to be the most stressful for Canadian doubles. The boats are bigger and slightly wider compared to others, so finding the perfect line on the technically difficult course was a big challenge for them. Arthur Leduc – Leo Zouggari (FRA), Manuel Filzwieser – Peter Draxl (AUT) and Peter Žnidaršič – Luka Žganjar (SLO) were the most successful duos in the sprint race. Austrians Filzwieser and Draxl showed the best run on Saturday in classic race, finishing the race ahead of another French duo on the podium Jordi Bizard and Xavier Legare. Luka Žganjar and Peter Žnidaršič were third again.
After two days of racing in Slovenia, wildwater canoeing circus moved north - to Austria, where the remaining two world cup races will take place. The best paddlers will then remain in Austria for the ICF Wildwater canoeing sprint World Championships, which starts on Friday in Vienna.
by Nina Jelenc
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