Canoe-kayak slalom in Nanjing: France buoyed by double success
Quickly adapting to a new format, which had them launching themselves from a ramp before negotiating eight buoys on identical adjacent courses, the athletes competing in the canoe and kayak slalom events at Nanjing 2014 served up some breath-taking action.
The canoeists and kayakers taking part in the slalom events on Lake Xuanwu were faced with a spectacular eight-buoy course that marked a radical departure from the artificial white water courses and hanging gates they are accustomed to negotiating.
As in the sprint events, competitors raced against the clock in the qualifying round, with the fastest eight athletes eventually progressing to the knockout rounds, where they faced off in head-to-head races.
Each race saw competitors launching themselves into the water from a ramp and then working their way round four buoys on one side of the course before turning and paddling their way round four more buoys on the other side and then sprinting for the finish line.
French fire on thrilling last day
Making the most of their kayak and canoe slalom experience, France enjoyed a hugely profitable final day on the water at the Nanjing Rowing-Canoeing School, with Lucas Roisin coming home first in the men’s C1 and Camille Prigent seizing gold in the women’s K1.
“The gates here are totally different to the ones we’re used to, which meant we came to Nanjing with no idea of how we’d do against the rest of the field,” said a delighted Prigent. “But after the qualifying round, we saw that we had a chance to get on the podium.”
The Frenchwoman posted a time of 1:20.211 to beat China’s Yan Jiahua in the final, with Czech Republic’s Amalie Hilgertova (the niece of double Olympic K1 slalom champion Stepanka Hilgertova) proving too fast for Germany’s Selina Jones in the bronze-medal race.
The men’s C1 final was going the way of Republic of Ireland’s Robert Hendrick until he capsized at the midway point, allowing Roisin to steal ahead and win gold with a time of 1:18.179, nearly a second ahead of the Irishman. Slovakia’s Marko Mirgorodsky’s time of 1:23.257 was good enough to earn him the bronze against Slovenia’s Leon Breznik.
Urankar and Wertschnig master the ramp
In the other finals, Slovenia’s Anze Urankar took gold in the men’s K1, while Austria’s Nadine Wertschnig emerged victorious in the women’s C1.
“The start ramp and the drop into the lake was the toughest part of the whole competition,” said Wertschnig. “It was a real test. I thought to myself that as long as I pushed off well I’d be able to go on and win. But I also knew that if it wasn’t perfect, I’d have to go even faster, which would make things harder. I trained on the ramp every day, though, and I’ve competed on white water before, so everything worked out fine.”
Wertschnig beat the Czech Republic’s Martina Saktova in the final with a time of 1:25.659, while Germany’s Birgit Ohmayer edged out Lucie Prioux of France to win the bronze.
After going fastest in qualifying to install himself as the favourite for gold in the men’s K1, Slovakia’s Jakub Grigar went in nose first from the ramp as he took on Urankar in the final. Though the Slovakian negotiated the course quickly and made a fast turn at the midway point, he was unable to catch his Slovenian rival, who crossed the line first in 1:09.057.
“Getting off the ramp was a challenge, but I didn’t have any sort of problems or difficulties at the start,” said Urankar. “I’ve got experience of whitewater kayaking and that’s why I was able to win my race without too much trouble.” China’s Huang Song got the better of Great Britain’s Paul Sunderland to win the bronze.