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11 Aug 2016
RIO 2016 , IOC News , Canoe Slalom , YOG , Czech Republic

Jubilant YOG prodigy slaloms to bronze on the waters

He’s the rising star of canoeing with an impressive list of honours that most in his sport would only dream of achieving in the entirety of their careers, let alone before the age of 24. And on Wednesday, Czech prodigy Jiří Prskavec delivered on the considerable promise he first showcased at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Singapore 2010 by slaloming his way to a bronze medal in the men’s kayak (K1) event in Rio.

Prskavec entered the Olympic Games Rio 2016 as the reigning world and European champion, as well as a two-time winner of the Czech Canoeist of the Year award. Although the substantial expectation of further success on the hilltop waters of Rio at the Deodoro X-Park may have initially unsettled the Czech in the final run as he hit a gate early on, Prskavec ably recovered to power to the finish in 88.99 seconds (including two penalty seconds). Crucially, he was a fraction ahead of fourth-placed Hannes Aigner, from Germany, and just 0.46 seconds behind eventual gold medallist Joe Clarke of Great Britain.

“I didn’t know it was that close but now I think I deserved it after touching that gate and speeding at the bottom of the course,” he admitted after securing his podium place. I think I couldn’t go much faster, and being in a bronze position even with the touch is pretty cool.”

Canoe Slalom
© Getty Images This typically youthful nonchalance betrays what is, in reality, a monumental feat by Prskavec. His mother Marcela once competed for the national canoeing team, while his father and coach – also called Jiří – was a bronze medallist at the ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships, and participated at the Olympic Games in 1996 and 2000.

They are big parental shoes to fill, and ones that Prskavec Jr. has already grown out of with his stellar performance in Rio. What’s more, he becomes only the second Czech to win an Olympic medal in the men’s K1 event, following on from Vavřinec Hradilek’s silver four years ago in London. And while Prskavec is clearly in his element on water, he still manages to keep his feet on the ground when evaluating the reasons behind his success.

“I had four people here: my mum, my father, and then my girlfriend and grandmother,” he said. “They got me in such a good condition here. I am so happy that they came and this medal is not only mine, it is also theirs.

Canoe slalom
© Getty Images

“My dad was twice at the Olympic Games and never got the medal. I am the one who completed his story now.”

Judging by Prskavec’s phenomenal achievements in Rio and beyond, and with his best years in a canoe still ahead of him, it is a story that seems sure to be followed by a number of similarly glorious sequels in the future.
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