Canoe slalom test event in Rio hailed a success
Great Britain, Slovenia, France and Austria all hailed winners at the International Canoe Slalom in Deodoro, but the biggest praise was reserved for a demanding course that will produce worthy Olympic champions next year.
David Florence (GBR) won the men's C1 event while Mathieu Biazizzo (FRA) was victorious in the men's K1 and the Slovenian pair Saso Taljat and Luka Bozic took the C2 honours. Violetta Oblinger-Peters (AUT) won the women's K1 competition and those who experienced the event, in which 122 athletes from 26 countries participated, were encouraged by the spectacle that unfolded.
Among the interested onlookers was Tony Estanguet (FRA), the reigning Olympic C1 champion and three-time gold medalist, who spoke glowingly of the variation on display at the test event.
“Every five metres you have something different,” Estanguet said. “The course is very demanding and it was a key step for the athletes to come to the test event. It has given them confidence. Everyone showed themselves to be serious and focused. I saw it in their eyes. I had a good feeling about the overall atmosphere.”
Ana Satila, the Brazilian kayaker, pronounced the course "the best in the world" although Daniele Molmenti, the current men's K1 Olympic champion, admitted that it will provide a daunting test in his bid to retain the title next year. “There was no room to breathe," he said. "It demanded a lot, both physically and mentally.”
This was exacerbated by the fact that on Sunday, November 29 – the event's final day – the course was beset by heavy rain. The overall impression at the Whitewater Stadium was hugely positive, though, and those in charge of organising next year's events were satisfied by the outcome.
“This place will be a classic for the sport," said John MacLeod, the Rio 2016 canoe slalom competition manager. "And it’s very beautiful as well. We learnt a lot and I think that there was a fantastic energy from the technical teams involved.”
The track was created by the White Water Parks company, who devised a relatively narrow track that sees athletes faced with water descending at greater pressure than at London 2012.